Determinism and Free Will
When the topic of metaphysics is mentioned, focus shifts to philosophical perspectives that give an explanation of the fundamental nature of being or existence and the universe that encompasses both. Metaphysics often seeks to answer basic questions, such as “what is there” and “what is it like.” One of the key branches of metaphysics is ontology, which refers to the philosophical study of the nature of existence, being, reality, or becoming. The significant ontological concern is the existence of determinism and free will, and questions have often been raised on whether one of the two perspectives exists at the expense of the other. To address the concerns and questions raised about the existence of the two concepts, having a clear understanding of their definitions and what they refer to in life is important. Firstly, determinism can be defined as the philosophical belief that every event or experience occurs because of some necessity, and thus, most events or experiences are considered inevitable (Ogletree & Oberle, 2008). However, it should be noted that with this perspective or view, the idea that certain events or occurrences could have been performed in a different manner and future decisions could turn out to be different from the expectation, are criticized or challenged. On the other hand, the concept of free will refers to the ability that a person has to choose between different possible courses of action, and in most cases, free will is influenced by other concepts, such as persuasion, prohibition, and deliberation (Fischer et al., 2009). As the concept of determinism, the possibility of free will has been challenged because of the different view or opinions of how exactly it is conceived. The correlation between the two concepts is that determinism, on one hand, gives a suggestion that only a single course of events is possible and it is as a result of an existing law, and free will, on the other hand, gives the suggestion that individuals have the freedom to exhibit any behavior without necessarily being influenced or coerced by existing laws. With these perspectives in mind, this paper aims at determining whether determinism rules out the possibility of free will.
Development of Thesis
The argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will would mean that the two concepts are incompatible. In the case of free will, a person can do otherwise when exhibiting a certain behavior or action, and this is an insinuation that he/she is not tied to exhibiting the same. Conversely, in the case of determinism, a person cannot do otherwise or divert from exhibiting an expected behavior or action (Ogletree & Oberle, 2008). These two premises can lead to a conclusion that determinism is dominant, and thus, rules out the possibility of free will. There is no doubt that the already mentioned argument about determinism ruling out the possibility of free will has often challenged the way people think about their place as agents in society. Such an argument has often resulted in people giving up the idea of free will and working in a society where everything is done as stipulated in the laws in place. Unfortunately, the fact that people give up free will is unattractive and unacceptable because free will plays a crucial role when it comes to peoples’ self-conception as agents of decision-making and rational deliberation. As such, it should be noted that determinism does not rule out the possibility of free will, and thus, the two are compatible. As much as the events and experiences that people undergo are restricted by specific laws, they also have the freedom or free will to make decisions on what events they want to be part of and how they want to behave or act.
The argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will has no proof and is unacceptable in society today. Evidently, not every action or decision made by people in the world today is based on set laws and regulations. In as much as there are laws to guide or dictate how people should behave, it is the free will to behave or act as expected by law that counts in the long run. For instance, in every country, there are laws that state that people ought to take part in the electoral process to elect leaders who can play a part in socioeconomic development. The fact that people take part in electoral processes is often attributed to the free will that people have in the long run. Other than laws being in place, it is the concept of free will that will influence an individual to take part in a given process or act in a specific manner (List, 2014). This idea rules out the argument that the actions that people take part in are because of the pre-set laws or conditions and not their free will to participate in the same.
In respect of the argument above, the compatibility between determinism and free will and the point that determinism rules out the possibility of free will cannot be doubted. Often, a person’s exhibition of a particular behavior is as a result of the laws or regulations in place as well as his/her free will to do so. One of these perspectives cannot overshadow the other, and this is why it would be right to underscore the fact that determinism cannot rule out the possibility of free will.
The above argument can be applied to various contexts in life. For instance, a person who decides to surrender to jurisdictional authorities for having committed murder does so not only because of the laws that are in place but also because he/she has the free will to do so. This implies that determinism, despite its role in the decisions and actions of human beings, does not rule out the possibility of free will in the same.
Argument in Support of and Opposition to Thesis
Several scholars support the argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will. Ogletree & Oberle (2008) argue that determinism rules out the possibility of free will because the latter is as a result of people’s deliberate actions, which most of the times are caused or determined. The study opines that determinism provides a platform for free will, and free will cannot be experienced without the existence of determinism. The study proceeds to mention that free will is not as critical as determinism as the former is a mere illusion that reflects a kind of ignorance that people have in controlling variables of their choices. From this study, the argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will is underscored.
On the other hand, several scholars oppose the argument that determinism rules out the possibility or existence of free will. For instance, List (2014) disagrees with the argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will with the statement that free will is in existence and plays a crucial role in people’s self-perception as agents with the capability of coming up with rational deliberations and decisions. The study highlights that free will lies at the heart of morality and the law itself, and thus, cannot in any way be ruled out by determinism.
Further, Libet et. al. (2000) give two indisputable facts that oppose the argument that determinism rules out the possibility or existence of free will. The study states that in most cases, the occurrence or emergence of a person’s voluntary act is endogenous and is not affected by external control or cues. The study also mentions that most individuals often have the feeling that they wanted to do a certain action and that they have a feeling of controlling what is being done, when and how to do it. From these perspectives, it can be deduced that the possibility or existence of free will cannot be ruled out.
Response to Arguments
How the above arguments and opinions are valid on whether determinism rules out the possibility of free will is irrefutable. It is important to note that most of the actions or behaviors exhibited by people in society are primarily out of free will and not because of existing laws that imply determinism. However, the influence of determinism on people’s actions cannot be ruled out, and thus, it would be right to underline the compatibility between the two concepts.
With the perspectives discussed above, it is vital to note that determinism does not and cannot rule out the possibility or existence of free will. On one hand, determinism is defined as the philosophical belief that every event or experience occurs because of some necessity, and thus, most events or experiences are considered inevitable, and on the other hand, free will refers to the ability that a person has to choose between different possible courses of action, and in most cases, it is influenced by other concepts, such as persuasion, prohibition, and deliberation. The bottom line is that most of the actions that people are involved in can be attributed to the influence of free will, and this is despite the existence of laws (determinism).Therefore, the argument that determinism rules out the possibility of free will is not true.
Fischer, J. M., Kane, R., Pereboom, D., & Vargas, M. (2009). Four views on free will. John Wiley & Sons.
Libet, B., Freeman, A., & Sutherland, K. (2000). The volitional brain: Towards a neuroscience of free will (Vol. 6). Imprint Academic.
List, C. (2014). Free will, determinism, and the possibility of doing otherwise. Noûs, 48(1), 156-178.
Ogletree, S. M., & Oberle, C. D. (2008). The nature, common usage, and implications of free will and determinism. Behavior and Philosophy, 97-111.