Thursday, July 19, 2012

Determinism and free will

In the post about materialism and substance dualism we’ve briefly dealt with the problem of making decisions (such as standing up). But did you really have free will to actually decide to stand up? Well, according to the determinism theory you did not. Why did you stand up then? Determinism definition states that all events are ultimately determined by causes which are independent of the will. There are many examples of determinism and – as in the case of most philosophical theories – there are various branches of determinism including soft and hard determinism (known also as compatibilism and metaphysical determinism). If you want to see how determinism works practically, click "read more" (or if you already did then start reading the next paragraph…

And you did it! According to the determinism theory you had no choice. It was determined that you would continue reading this post even before you discovered Mind and Philosophy blog. And if other readers "decided" not to read further, it had been determined as well. Therefore determinist says that there is no such thing as decision so there is no such thing as free will either. You may ask: "What’s the ground for such belief?" The ground is quite simple. Imagine that you’re having great time in a restaurant with your best friends and you’re about to order the dessert; there are only two options available: big portion of delicious ice-cream (your favourite flavour!) or big portion of healthy fruit salad. You know that you shouldn’t choose the ice-cream because you could have problems with your stomach/weight and you’ve already eaten much anyway; but still you’d prefer the fruit salad which is not as delicious as the ice-cream but is surely healthier. After some struggle you choose the ice-cream. When you go back home you realise that you’ve got stomach problems. What would you think? I’ll list two possible thoughts:
  • I could have ordered the fruit salad!
  •  I could have ordered nothing!

You could have ordered the fruit salad? Really? Why didn’t you order it then? What were the causes of your decision? Here are some possible reasons:
  • I like the ice-cram better.
  • Everybody else had the ice-cream.
  • I’m not that fat.
As you see, there are plenty of reasons and every single reason undeniably influenced your decision.  And that’s the very essence of determinism. There are complex causes which determine what you do and according to determinism these are the causes which make all decisions about your whole life. This is a controversial statement because it can’t be proved in any way. I believe that the only way of proving that determinism is false is creating a time machine, go back to the restaurant and eat that healthy fruit salad. But in this case, creating a time machine would be determined as well…

P.S. By the way, it was also determined that Mind and Philosophy blog would have its new site on Facebook! Like Mind and Philosophy page to keep in touch!


Defining free will

Do you think you have free will?


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