not free. Of course, quantum mechanics is only concerned with the smallest scales of reality, and atthe macro scale we are familiar with the orderly progress of causal determinism still makes sense.For example, although atomic decay is inherently unpredictable, given a large enough number of particles the average rate of decay can be calculated this is what is known as the half-life of anelement. The human body operates on a scale high above quantum mechanical interactions, and soto establish whether humans are exempt from the deterministic laws that govern other large bodiesrequires a different kind of investigation.The psychologist Benjamin Libet conducted experiments on human subjects to test exactly when it isthat we become consciously aware of willing to do an action (Libet, 1999). His aim was to discover if we are consciously in control of the biological processes which lead to our actions, specifically thosewhich lead to muscle movements. He found that readiness potential the electrical build-up in thebrains motor region which precedes a muscle movement begins to increase 350-400ms before aperson actually reports being aware of the intention to act. He concluded that human volitions, atleast with regard to movement, are initiated unconsciously. He argues that this does not precludeconscious control over actions as long as we can prevent ourselves from doing things 50ms beforethey occur, so our freedom could be a kind of vetoing power. However, this hardly fits with ournormal view of freedom we do not see ourselves as unpredictable machines, waiting for volitionsto appear and then deciding in less than a fifth of a second whether or not to go through with it. Wehave a distinct feeling that our own conscious mind and will are the actuators of our movements andthe source of our thoughts.One of the philosophical cases against freedom is raised by Daniel Wegner. He argues that our senseof having a free will is an illusion. He makes a distinction between the experience of consciouslywilling an action and the actual causation of the action. The tendency to confuse them, he says, isthe source of the illusion of conscious will (Wegner,
004). He builds on a Humean thesis whichstates that our experience of willing an action is mistakenly thought to be the cause of our deliberateactions because it always occurs in causal conjunction with them. We have a natural propensity toinfer rational principles from empirical experiences, and the experience of two things alwaysoccurring in conjunction makes us assume there is a causal relation between them. However, this isnot a rationally qualified inference, and Libets experiments suggest that our assumption that ourdeliberate actions are caused by our conscious volitions is a mistake.There are strong reasons to be worried about the determinist thesis, however, since it seems tothreaten the commonplace notions of personal accountability and self-control which are central tomany of our moral practices such as blame and punishment. For this reason there are many thinkerswho have argued against determinism in favour of human liberty of indifference. Jean-Paul Sartre,for example, argued that agents are consciously responsible for the constraints they place onthemselves by failing to render past resolutions effective for example, a person with a gamblingaddiction is fully responsible for whether or not they will fulfil their past resolutions to stopgambling. It is by our own conscious willing that we allow our circumstances to constrain us.However, one might argue that determinism does not threaten ordinary moral concepts andpractices. In fact, it is even possible to argue that determinism is
to make morality arealistic idea. To elaborate, if we imagine that people were in fact free agents who could actindependently of causes, they would be inherently unpredictable. The ordinary practices of praise
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Free Will Versus Determinism
The controversy between free will and determinism has been argued
about for years. What is the difference between the two? Looking in a
dictionary, free will is the power, attributed to human beings, of making free
choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such
as fate or divine will. Free will allows free choice. Yet, determinism is the
total opposite. Determinism has this definition: The philosophical doctrine
that every event, act, and decision is the inescapable consequence of
antecedents that are independent of the human will. Determinism states that
humans have no free will to choose what they wish. That seems real extreme and
harsh. Even though this is what determinism is, doesn't mean that the
determinists are trying to steal your freedom. It's only what they believe
because of religion and cause and effect. In religion, many people believe in
the existence of a god supports determinism. The basis of god is that he is
all-knowing and all-powerful. If free will is allowed, there would be
decisions and actions in which God could not know due to the person's choice.
This would limit God's omnipotence, which is unacceptable to some. The other
argument for determinism is causation, or causes and effects. This argument
depends on relationships that should happen with the same results every time,
such as a baseball breaking a window, breaking the window. Basing on this,
everything in the universe has a cause. And if all the causes and the events
were known, then it would be possible to easily predict the future. If
everything can be foreseen, then this proves that nothing that anyone does can
change the courses of the future. This, of course, is not possible.
Determinism says that what you do can be the cause of what your life turns out
to be. This can be true. Yet, you can act otherwise that would steer you off
that path of where your life was heading. Common sense tells us that we can
change, which determinism opposes to. It also says that if we feel we are not
forced, we could have acted differently. That is why I choose to side with
free will. Determinism has too many extremes and limits that, already shown,
is not possible in this world.
Free will is the mind's ability to choose with intelligence. That
doesn't mean that our choice has all the freedom in the world. Our choices
cannot and obviously should not be totally free from our knowledge, values and
perceptions of everyday life and the things around us. Our choices are not
free from past thoughts and decisions or from outside influences. The freedom
in freewill is not the dismissal of these influencing factors: our self
awareness, our imagination, our ability to seek out knowledge and project the
future, and our awareness of and observing our own thinking. This is our
source of freedom. This makes us self-determined, being aware of what we want.
The proper understanding of free will is that choices are not free from
influences, but free to make intelligent choices.
If determinism were true, no person would be able to change his
actions, therefore no one could ever be held morally responsible for his own
actions. Common sense says that we can change our actions by our own choice.
Everyone in this world has common sense. In this argument determinism is
definitely not true. One can want to do something, but from past experiences,
can stop and not do the actions he had planned. A thief, who finally got
caught and suffered two awful years in prison, can decide to not steal after
seeing a desirable pair of pants lying openly on a rack. He can restrain
himself from doing wrong, after realizing from past consequences. This leads
to the next argument. We can and have overcome our desires and inclinations.
Both common sense and fact show that we can actively change our behavior. Yet
a determinist would say that we only perceive that we can change our actions
and behavior. But, that too, is false. Before, I wanted an expensive shirt
that I really, really liked, but I, then, remembered the last time I bought a
shirt that expensive, begging on my knees to my mom to buy it for me, and I
rarely wore it. That made my mom really mad. This would leave me to not buy
that desirable shirt, changing my actions ( I really have not bought an
expensive shirt, after that incident ). Free will states that we do not feel
forced to act. At the time of a decision, we feel we have other choices. A
determinist would say to this that such feelings of control are illusions, that
we are just ignorant of all the irresistible forces acting upon us. Again, I
would have to disagree to that. Noticing the consequences of an action could
cause the individual to not act. The feeling of control is not an illusion; we
see the actions and think about what may happen if we acted. Free will says
that at a certain time we feel that we could have chosen to act differently. A
determinist reply to that is that our behavior is already determined by
previous events. Therefore we can not change our behavior. Previous events do
affects us; we cannot ignore that. But, like the previous examples, if the
previous events' consequences were not good, we would mostly likely change,
unless that individual was deranged. These arguments on free will definitely
does not pertain to all people. Everyone is different. Yet mostly likely,
individuals think towards free will.
An implication to determinism is that man becomes nothing more than
a puppet. That may sound cruel, but it is true. Under the rules of
determinism, man must go by past events, doing the same thing he did in the
past, right or wrong. He can not change his behavior, unable to let out his
emotions. The man has become a puppet, being controlled and restricted. And
in everyday life, determinism does not exist in most lives.
It is logical and reasonable to say that the all of free will is a
measure of our humanness. Whatever we choose will effect our future. But we
will base our decisions on what we feel is right, taking in our moral feelings.
Free will is a measure of self-determination that people feel themselves to
possess and by which they make moral judgments.
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