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Freedom & Determinism
Transcript of Freedom & Determinism
Determinism is the view which holds that for every result, effect, & event in reality involves an underlying cause or causes exist. "There is no such thing as an uncaused result, effect, or event."
Religious Determinism (Predestination)
The attributes of omniscience (all-knowing) & omnipotent (all-powerful) assigned to God suggests that He knows everything that has happened, is happening, & will happen. Thus, everything is foreknown by God. This was strongly held by the Protestant Theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) - "God already knows who are elected for salvation and damnation."
The physical & natural sciences depend on observation, experimentation, & the consistency of their hypothesis as they correspond to facts. This leads them to accept "Universal causation" & allows them to presume the impossibility of freedom in the real sense.
Fatalism is the view that all events are irrevocably fixed and predetermined. Such events cannot be altered in any way by human beings & that the future is alway's beyond our control - "Whatever will be, will be."
TYPES OF DETERMINISM
This characterization of God and His relation to His creatures doesn't square with the image of an "all-merciful" & "all-just" God.
What would be the value of doing good if one is destined to be damned?
Newton (1642-1727) argues that the entire realm of nature & the universe is governed by natural laws.
Since humans are also a part of physical nature which is governed by laws of causation, thus humans are also governed by such laws. Hence, Freedom is an illusion.
Physical Science & Determinism
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in his famous work the Origin of Species argued that different species evolved due to the principle of natural selection i.e. the fittest survive and the weak perishes through the process of adaptation. Thus, it is nature that governs various species with its various processes.
Biological & Genetic Determinism
A modern view of evolutionary theory is propounded by the biologist Richard Dawkins. He argues that evolutionary process is most evident through the gene. The human act of altruism is rather determined by the Selfish Gene which allows to prolong its existence.
Hegel developed a deterministic theory of human history which is known as Dialectical Idealism through the triadic system of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. He believes that the various periods in history is the dialectical unfolding of the Absolute Mind (Zeitgeist) that is trying to reveal itself towards perfection. He further maintains that the basic nature of reality is rational and mental (Idealism) & that physical reality is a mere manifestation of the absolute mind’s intellectual growth to perfection. This therefore implies that we are determined by a cosmic force called Zeitgeist and we are a result of such process.
Historical/Cultural Determinism Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831)
Economic/Social Determinism Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Marx maintains that our consciousness and actions are determined by material economic factors. His concept of Dialectical Materialism suggests that the evolutionary process of socio-economic systems reflects the class struggle for material production.
Freudianism & Behaviorism
The founder of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) put forth the theory that human beings are determined, even prior to their birth, by their unconscious minds & various natural drives (the "id" where the pleasure principle lies) which their society's mores and customs required them to repress. The Oedipus Complex on boys & the Electra Complex on girls is an example of how mankind is determined by inner drives & unconscious motivations.
Skinner based his psychological theory of behaviorism from the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) who developed the concept of "conditioned reflex". In his experiment with dogs, he discovered that the dog would react by salivating once he rings the bell everytime he gave the dog food. Once conditioned, he rang the bell without giving them food yet would salivate nonetheless. This led them to posit the theory that all animals (humans included) could be conditioned to act in certain ways and in fact were conditioned by external forces.
Skinner holds the idea further by claiming that human beings are entirely physical & that the behavior they exhibit is strictly the result of haphazard conditioning from their environments - both physical & social/cultural.
Soft determinism maintains that there is universal causation, but, unlike hard determinists, they believe tthat some of this causation originates from human beings, thus giving meaning to the phrase "human freedom."
Essentially maintains that if all events are caused, it follows then that there can be no such thing as freedom or free will. Certain causes that are not within human control have determined both the way human beings are & the way they act. The way that humans affect things is caused by their personal makeup & environment which in turn are caused by factors over which humans have no control.
Determinism & Indeterminism
Criticisms against determinism ...
We are determined by our inner nature such as desire; however, we are also free to choose to desire or not to desire and succeed in such endeavor.
Determinists are also stamped with an inaccurate use of language - determinists argue that to be free in the real sense, they must have a control over their own genetic makeup, their early childhood, etc. This type of argument pushes language too far away from its meaning. We cannot have existed first and choose our original character in order to be free in the real sense.
Indeterminists hold that there is a certain amount of chance and freedom in the world; that not everything is caused and that there is a real pluralism in reality. Furthermore, the indeterminists believe that most of the freedom or chance that exists can be found on the area of human deliberation and choice., especially in moral deliberation and decision making. William James (1842-1910) is the most prominent exponent of this - he argues that there is novelty and spontaneity in the world allowing human beings to exercise their faculty of choice and creativity.
Criticism on Indeterminism
"Isn't the premise of indeterminism based on wishful thinking rather than actual logic or evidence?" - wanting to be free or wanting the world to be spontaneous does not make it so.
Another criticism against indeterminism is that it implies that all moral acts are accidents if an action is not caused.
The hard determinists' misuse of language doesn't truly account for the complexity of the nature of human beings, especially of human minds & consciousness.
Existentialism is a 20th Century philosophy which centers on the notion of human freedom & the search for meaning on a purposeless world. The essence of man is something that is not pre-given, but rather one chooses to create oneself as one chooses to live life meaningfully.
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) captures the existentialist definition in his famous phrase "existence precedes essence" and "man is condemned to be free". It is not the 'what' of life that defines you, it is the 'how' & 'why' that enables you to be who you are.
FREEDOM & DETERMINISM
"How are we free in the real sense?"