The Argument Between Free Will and Determinism

Topics: Determinism

The argument between free will and determinism has been contended about for hundreds of years. What are the main differences between the two viewpoints? If a person were to look in a dictionary, free will would be defined as the power, attributed to human beings, to freely make choices that are unimpeded by outside conditions or by an agency that would control such things as fate or divine will. Free will lets humans make choices of their own. On the other side of the coin, determinism is the exact opposite of this concept.

Determinism is loosely defined as: “all events, including human actions, are in the end dictated by external causes to the human’s will. Philosophers have taken determinism to denote that single human beings have no free will and can’t be held justly accountable for their actions.” Determinism says that human beings have categorically no free will to do anything on their own. Logically this seems excessive and unforgiving.

Even though this is what determinism is defined as doesn’t mean that the determinists are trying to remove your freedom of choice. Philosophy is only one of their beliefs mainly formed due to influences such as religion and the human ability to see patterns where there are none.

In religion, believers in the existence of a god or creator support the idea of determinism. The foundation of a god is that it is an all-knowing and all-powerful creature outside the normal sphere of the universe, and therefore capable of influencing it from the outside.

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If free will is true within this system, God would therefore not be all-knowing, as humans would be able to make decisions he couldn’t know the outcome of. This would hinder God’s omnipotence, which is insupportable to some believers. Another argument for determinism being real is called causation, or cause and effect. This argument relies on interactions that should happen with the same consequences every time, such as a rock being able to break a window. , This line of thinking leads to everything in the universe having a cause, and if all the causes were known, then it would be conceivable to foretell the future. So if all can be predicted, then that proves nothing that any person does can alter the course of future events. This, as we all know, isn’t possible. Determinism says that everything you do works towards a result that will be the same regardless of the path you intend on taking. This thinking could be true. Yet, a person can act otherwise which would then steer them off this original path, where their life was going. We, as human beings can know that we can change our path, which determinism opposes. This is why it appears that Determinism has too many excesses and limitations that are not feasible in this world.

Free will is the human mind’s capability to pick with intelligence the course of action it wishes to take in any sort of event. This does not mean that a person’s choice has unlimited freedom. A person’s decisions obviously should not be free from our understanding,

principles, and observations of everyday life and the events around us. Our choices are influenced by past thoughts and experiences as well as outside factors. The liberty in freewill is not the disregarding of these impelling factors: it’s a human being’s natural self-awareness imaginings, and its ability to seek out information and predict the future, as well as our cognizance of and perceive our owoughts. This is a human’s source of freedom of thought. This makes our species a self-determined, and aware species. The correct definition of how free will works should be; Human choices that are not free from outside influence, but are still capable of being changed using intelligence and adaption to events outside of their control.

If determinism were true, no one would have the ability to change his or her actions, therefore no one could ever be held ethically accountable for his or her actions. Humans can change their actions with a single choice presented to them. Proponents of this argument say that determinism cannot be true because of this ability to change and adapt on a whim. 

One can want to endeavor to do something, but because of past experiences, one can stop themselves and not perform the actions that he or she had planned. A robber who finally gets caught and was sent to two awful years inside a prison can resolve to not steal again after seeing a nice pair of jeans lying on a rack in a store. He can confine himself from performing the crime again, after appreciating the punishment from past experiences. This, therefore, leads us to the next argument. All of us have risen above our cravings and proclivities. The facts show that we can dynamically change our deeds. Yet a determinist would argue that we only observe that we can alter our actions and behavior. That humans only think they have made a choice when all they’ve done is follow the exact path that has been laid out for them by fate or a god. But, that too, is false. Free will says that humans do not feel compelled to act. At the moment of a choice, we feel we have other options. A determinist would say feelings of control are illusions, that we are simply unaware of all the tantalizing outside forces acting upon us. Yet, noticing the penalties of action could cause the person to not act. The feeling of control humans perceive is not an illusion, rather humans see actions and predict the outcome of those actions. Free will says that at a particular time we will feel as if we could have chosen to act contrarily to how we did act. A determinist response to this is that our conduct is already written in stone by previous events. Therefore we can’t change our deeds. Previous events do affect us, we can’t ignore this, but like the previous examples, if the previous events’ penalties were not good, we would most likely modify or choose, unless, of course, the person has a mental disorder such as schizophrenia.

These points of view on free will certainly don’t relate to all people. Yet more than likely, individuals naturally associate with the free will side of the philosophies. An inference to determinism is that humans are nothing more than puppets to something that does have free will. They cannot change their behavior, unable to choose their path. It is rational and realistic to say that free will is a measurement of our very nature as human beings. Whatever our choices, they will affect our future. We will base our conclusions on what we sense is right, taking into consideration our ethical feelings on the subject at hand. Free will is a measurement of autonomy that humans feel themselves possess and by which they make moral conclusions.

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The Argument Between Free Will and Determinism. (2022, Jun 15). Retrieved from

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