Topic: The Concept of Free WillStudent Name: Nikita DuggalStudent No: 17200713From the past decades there has been a question in psychology and some related fields such asphilosophy etc. that do humans have free will. The term “Free Will was introduced by theChristian philosophy and meant the lack of necessity in human will. There has always been adebate regarding free will versus determinism as there are various approaches to it, one of theapproaches state that whether the nature is deterministic and is crucial to in-compatibilistswhere as irrelevant to the compatibilists.
In this essay I will not take sides in this controversybut will rather be interested in discussing the disagreement between the theories related to theexistence of free will and the debate about whether we are predetermined to behave in acertain way, with our behavior being determined by internal and external influences alsoknown as determinism or whether we are able to choose how we act of what internal andexternal influences encourage us to do. For this essay we shall consider the article “On theVery Concept of Free Will” by Joshua May as the main argument article to be referred for theimportance of whether free will requires both the truth and falsity of determinism. The otherarticle to be referred is the “Free Will and Determinism”.
One of the thoughtful questions which are often debated since the Ancient Greek time inphilosophy has been whether we have free will in performing or determining the course of ouractions or whether our actions are determined by some forces beyond our control. Before theadvent of the secular thought there existed a belief that there are some forces which wereidentified as the whim of Gods though there are instances of the tradition of naturalism inwestern thought which goes back as far as the Milesian School of Greek Philosophy in the 6thcentury BC. In recent times as, the philosophers have developed Cognitive Science.
They arelikely of the thought that the peoples work along deterministic lines. So, a new debate hasarisen whether the concepts of determinism with respect to the brain is compatible with freewill? So, the two thoughts have been shifted and the attention is drifted towards ‘deterministsand the anti-determinists to that between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists.I would draw your attention to the debate between the two opponents Peter Van Inwagen andDaniel C Denett. Both are trying to argue of the basis of conclusion from their point of viewwhich they regard logically reasonable with Van Inwagen following the incompatibilists thoughtand Daniel the compatibilists. According to me Van Inwagen’s argument is more precise so Iwould like to use his work as the starting point of the debate. Van Inwagen who suggests threehouses of thought, firstly that free will is in fact incompatible with determinism, that moralresponsibility is incompatible with determinism and lastly since we have moral responsibilitydeterminism is false. Hence Van Inwagen arguments conclude that we have free will whereas asDenett argues that we do have free will, but it differs on the nature of its relationship withdeterminism.
Based on the first house the argument is if determinism is true then our acts are the result ofthe laws of nature and events in the remote past. But we can’t hold it up as true as it is not upto as to what went on before we were born, and nor it holds to what the laws of nature are.Therefore, the consequences of the above things are not our responsibility.The second argument the houses are if none of us are morally responsible for failing to performevery act and for any event and none of us are morally responsible of any act then there is nosuch thing of taking responsibility.
Lastly Van Inwagen makes a concise conclusion on his line of argument. He thus proves that weourselves give evidence that we take moral responsibility for what we do and constantly holdoneself morally responsible for actions.However, Denett does agree with the validity of Van Inwagens argument and doesn’t findfalsity it but his approach is to reformulate the phrase of concept of “up to us” and”responsibility”. According to his view, mind is purely egoistic, a spiritual substance that is nottouched by physical processes. Senses can influence them but no other mechanistic eventoutside in the world can affect it in any manner. It could be affected by events indirectly ifmaneuvered by the host body.Some of the other two arguments stated again by Peter van Inwagwen and Albert Mele are, onone hand Peter states that if determinism is true then we can’t do anything other than what wedo assuming that the laws of nature cannot be changed, yet we require it if we must possessfree will. Thus, he concludes that the falsehood of determinism is a necessary condition for freewill and has called this as “consequence argument”.
On the other hand, according to Mele thefalsity of determinism generates something called as the “luck argument”. if action will occurwhich is not completely determined by your character, psychological states, circumstances, andso on, then the outcome is partly a matter of chance. This concludes that the truth ofdeterminism appears to be a necessary condition for free will.
The two concepts that have been introduced to treat the problem of free will in the abovepaper area) Liberty: It is defined as if an agent has liberty in the situation just when it has two genuineoptions for action, then this situation is intuitively important for acting freely as lacking optionscan surrender the choice as an illusion. When this factor is relevant for free will, the falsehoodof determinism appears to be a necessary condition by the theorists.b) Ensurance: An agent has ensurance with regards to an action when the action depends onthe mental states and the environment. This factor captures the kind of control that seemsimportant for agents who act freely and responsibly. The focus on this factor with the accountof free will, the truth of determinism appears to be a necessary condition by theorists.Compatibilists and in-compatibilists have fought their way out for characterizing thesenotions, which can conflict with the opponent’s view. These factors play a role in theapplication of free will and are not necessarily to be used individually and jointly sufficientconditions.
The concept of both the factors is thus straightforward i.e. either of the factors arepresent or absent, but not when only one factor is missing.On this theory, the concept of free will is not incoherent but it may so when seeking aclassical analysis. Theorists argue for an incompatibility here, but this relies on two furtherclaims.
First, is that liberty is a necessary condition on free will and is incompatible withdeterminism. Second, claim says that ensurance is a necessary condition for free will and isincompatible with indeterminism. But as far as the ordinary thinking goes, neither of thesefactors is a necessary condition for free will and no explicit connection is made with thetheoretical concept of determinism.While doing the research about the topic I also found a blog on word press stating thedifferent approaches by different authors regarding free will versus determinism. Thepsychological approach and the behaviorists approach are supporters of determinism. Onepsychologist who supported was Skinner (1936) stating that the behavior of a human can bepredicted by the past and the current situation and can also be determined by environmentfactors whereas Freud talked about unconscious conflicts as the causes of the behavior, buteither ways they both agreed upon was that human behavior was all about what influenceswithin and outside a person and that we were not free to decide. On the other hand, Freud alsobelieved that there is a potential of free will stating that a person is able to change theirbehavior e.g.
Psychoanalysis of work. Skinner’s support was criticized by Bandura (1977) whostated that ‘if people’s actions were merely resolved by external rewards and punishments thenpeople would be like constantly changing direction to conform to the whims of others’. InsteadBandura believed that people have long-term goals and try to fulfil them instead of followingwhat others say. Also foregrounded the fact that Skinner failed to consider the fact that ourbehavior may influence our environment.
For example, if someone commits a crime and goesto prison, their behavior had influenced their environment.The Humanistic view does support free will. The authors Maslow and Rogers (1949)believed that behavior is not determined by external forces and that people have free will andcan choose how they wish to behave. They also stated that our actions are free within aframework. Based on this Rogers developed his theory called client centered therapy (1951)which aimed to help patients to exercise free will. Cognitive psychologists are also inclined toimportance of free will and focus on the choice of means, for them it is the rational processingof information which goes into the making of a decision.Incompatibilists are people who believe that free will and determinism areincompatible. Determinism indicates that only some course of events is possible, which isinconsistent with the existence of free will conceived.
This view that conceives free will to beincompatible with determinism is called incompatibilism, this claim that determinism is false and free will is possible to its minimum. There is also a claim known as hard determinismdefined in some articles which says that determinism is true and thus free will is not possible.In contrast, compatibilists hold that free will is compatible with determinism.
Compatibilists even confine that determinism is necessary for free will, arguing that choiceinvolves preference for one course of action over another, requiring the understandability ofhow choices will turn out. They consider the debate between libertarians and hard deterministsover free will vs determinism a false dilemma. Different compatibilists offer very differentdefinitions of what “free will” even means. We have different opinions from different types ofcompatibilists, some of them are:1) Classical compatibilists considered free will nothing more than freedom of action,considering one free of will simply if, had one counterfactually wanted to do otherwise,one could have done otherwise without physical impediment.2) Contemporary compatibilists instead identify free will as a psychological capacity, suchas to direct one’s behavior in a way responsive, sharing only the common feature of notfinding the possibility of determinism a threat to the possibility of free will.There have been many arguments between different psychologists and authors in regard toincompatibilism and compatibilism as stated below:1) If a person is compared to mechanical things that are determined in their behavior suchas a billiard ball, or a robot, then people must not have free will. This argument hasbeen rejected by compatibilists such as Daniel Dennett because, even if humans havesomething in common with these things, it remains possible and plausible that we aredifferent from such objects in important ways.2) Another argument for incompatibilism is that of the “causal chain”.
Incompatibilism iskey to the idealist theory of free will. Most incompatibilists do not accept the idea thatfreedom of action consists in “voluntary” behavior. They insist, rather, that free willmeans that man must be the “ultimate” or “originating” cause of his actions. Theargument, is that if man has free will, then man is the ultimate cause of his actions. Ifdeterminism is true, then man’s choices are caused by events and facts outside hiscontrol. So, if everything man does is caused by events and facts outside his control,then he cannot be the ultimate cause of his actions. Therefore, free will does not exist.
This argument has also been challenged by various compatibilist philosophers.3) A third argument for incompatibilism was formulated by Carl Ginet in the 1960s. Thesimplified argument runs along these lines: if determinism is true, then we have nocontrol over the events of the past that determined our present state and no controlover the laws of nature. Since our present choices and acts, under determinism, are thenecessary consequences of the past and the laws of nature, then we have no controlover them and, hence, no free will. This is called the consequence argument.4) For example, if Jane is a compatibilist and she has just sat down, then she is committedto the claim that she could have remained standing, if she had so desired. But it followsfrom the consequence argument that, if Jane had remained standing, she would haveeither generated a contradiction, violated the laws of nature or changed the past.
Hence, compatibilists are committed to the existence of “incredible abilities”, accordingto Ginet and van Inwagen. One response to this argument is that it evades on the notions of abilities and necessities, or that the free will evoked to given choice is reallyan illusion, oblivious to its “decider”. David Lewis suggests that compatibilists are onlycommitted to the ability to do something otherwise if different circumstances hadobtained in the past.5) Hard incompatibilism, the idea that free will cannot exist, irrespective of the notion ofwhether the world is deterministic or not. Derk Pereboom has defended hardincompatibilism, identifying a variety of positions where free will is irrelevant toindeterminism/determinism, among them the following:1. Determinism (D) is true, D does not imply we lack free will (F), but in fact we dolack F.
2. D is true, D does not imply we lack F, but in fact we don’t know if we have F.3. D is true, and we do have F.4. D is true, we have F, and F implies D.5. D is unproven, but we have F.
6. D isn’t true, we do have F, and would have F even if D were true.7. D isn’t true, we don’t have F, but F is compatible with D.Pereboom calls positions 3 and 4 soft determinism, position 1 a form of harddeterminism, position 6 a form of classical libertarianism, and any position thatincludes having F as compatibilism.6) John Locke denied that the phrase “free will” made any sense. He captured the viewthat the truth of determinism was irrelevant.
He believed that the defining feature ofvoluntary behavior was that individuals can postpone a decision to reflect or deliberateupon the consequences of a choice: “… the will in truth, signifies nothing but a power,or ability, to prefer or choose”. The philosopher Galen Strawson agrees with Locke thatthe truth or falsehood of determinism is irrelevant to the problem. He argues that thenotion of free will leads to an absolute regress which is senseless. According toStrawson, if one is responsible for what one does in each situation, then one must beresponsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one tobe responsible for the way one is in any respect.
This argument entails that free willitself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism. Strawson calls his ownview “pessimism” but it can be classified as hard incompatibilism.Compatibilists maintain that determinism is compatible with free will. They believefreedom can be present or absent in a situation for reasons. Likewise, some compatibilistsdefine free will as freedom to act according to one’s determined motives without hindrancefrom other individuals. So, for example Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, and the StoicChrysippus. In contrast, the incompatibilist positions are concerned with a sort of”metaphysically free will”, which compatibilists claim has never been coherently defined.Compatibilists argue that determinism does not matter; though they disagree amongthemselves about what, in turn, does matter.
To be a compatibilist, one need not endorse anyconception of free will, but only deny that determinism is at odds with free will. Some “modern compatibilists”, such as Harry Frankfurt and Daniel Dennett, argue free will is simply freelychoosing to do what constraints allow one to do.SUMMARYAt the end of the research of what exactly constitutes the concept of free will and determinismand studying the different theories by different psychologists who take the free will viewsuggest that determinism removes freedom and dignity, and devalues human behavior.
By thecreation of the general laws of behavior, deterministic psychology underestimates theuniqueness of human beings and their freedom to choose their own destiny. There areimportant implications for taking either of the side in this debate. Deterministic explanationsfor behavior reduce individual responsibility. For example, a person arrested for a violent attackfor example might plead that they were not responsible for their behavior – it was due to theirupbringing, a bang on the head they received earlier in life, recent relationship stresses, or apsychiatric problem.
In other words, their behavior was determined.Clearly, a pure deterministic or free will approach does not seem appropriate when studyinghuman behavior. Most psychologists use the concept of free will to express the idea thatbehavior is not a passive reaction to forces, but that individuals actively respond to internal andexternal forces.
The term soft determinism is often used to describe this position, wherebypeople do have a choice, but their behavior is always subject to some form of biological orenvironmental pressure.I think that the manifestation of this fundamental disagreement would help us resolve the issuebetween the doubt of free will and determinism but the doubt over any of them is evenpossible. This disagreement stated above are on the basis of the fundamental judgement of thepsychologists and the humanists and philosophers.This brief research on free will, we see that free will converges on issues in the field ofmetaphysics, philosophy of human nature, action theory, ethics and the philosophy of religion.Also, we’ve seen that there are competing views regarding virtually every aspect of free willincluding whether there is, or even could be, such a thing.References1.
https://www.simplypsychology.org/freewill-determinism.html3. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-freewill/480750/4. http://www.
https://philosophynow.org/issues/66/An_Argument_About_Free_Will7. https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura2008AgencyFreeWill.pdf8. http://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/free-will-is-a-cognitive-illusion9.