Free Will and Determinism

Free Will is an illusion, but as one possible foundation for the notion that you can and should take control and responsibility for your life – create your life – it is beautiful.

Free Will as metaphysic is unnecessary however. We can accept determinism and still believe we can create our lives. Indeed, without determinism, we have nothing from which to take (be influenced by) and exercise the life-creation ethic. That you believe in life-creation and exercise it is not and cannot (logically) be a result of ‘free will’. Rather you were determined to believe in it through hearing about it and taking it to heart. I urge you to keep this faith and create your life.


4 Responses to “Free Will and Determinism”

  1. philosophermells Says:

    I know you posted this entry awhile ago, however, it struck me as inconceivable to believe that determinism is compatible with free will regarding the “creation” of our lives. If determinism is true, then we cannot create our lives. When we say “create”, we mean to bring something into existence that previously did not exist. To some extent, this is true, however, we are in no way the “creator” or “author” of our lives if all of our choices have already been determined. One can also not be held morally responsible for any of his decisions if he is not the originator or author of his life. Hence why I believe we cannot create our lives if determinism is true.

  2. beholdtheman Says:

    Why do you think determinism rules out creativity and moral responsibility?

    Are human beings the only entities that create according to your definition of the term? Can/does a bird ‘create’ a nest, or a light bulb ‘create’ light? If yes, do either of these have ‘free will’? If yes, in case of the bird, isn’t its choice to create the nest already determined by its nature and environment?

    Responsibility is an ethical construct imposed on us by others. Its source is external to the individual, not found within the individual. As an example:
    A fox is not morally responsible for eating my chickens (I’m a farmer for argument’s sake); it is just doing what any fox would do by nature and with environmental opportunity. However, if I hunt down and kill the fox for its behaviour, and feel obliged to offer a moral justification for this action (for whatever reason), I may say the fox is the ’cause’ of my killing it. To support this causal notion I would thrust on my interpretation of the fox’s behaviour the notion of ‘free will’; the fox freely chose to murder my chickens and hence my capital punishment is completely justified in moral terms.

    The same goes for humans as for the fox in our legal system.

    The word ‘create’ is loaded with the notion of causality. Causality is an abstract concept that arises from the brain’s ability to identify patterns in nature. There is no material causality (see Hume on this); one thing may just follow another in repetitive, predictable ways.

    When I say ‘create your life’ I am providing an imperative to live your life in a particular way according to criteria that I judge as ‘good’. I am hoping that this imperative will direct your future actions, but whether it does depends on a number of factors, such as how much you trust me and the counter-influence of others. We can offer imperatives and have other people them adopt them through behavioural conditioning (See Skinner); there is no need to rely on others having ‘free will’ in order to adopt our imperatives.

  3. philosophermells Says:

    Your argument maintains my point, that determined events (such as a fox killing your chickens due to determined events outside his control) are not capable of holding something (animal or human) morally responsible. This example assumes, however, that animals such as a fox have free will. You say that a fox has the free will to chose to kill your chickens or not to kill your chickens, however, I believe animals are biologically determined to their actions. My main point is that humans whom have free will, are morally responsible for their actions unless their actions were already deterimined. If the fox had free will, which they clearly do not, then he could be held morally responsble for his actions and hence, your capital punishment would be unjust–his “non-soul” proves the point that it would be unjust to kill an animal who was just doing what it was “programmed” to do”. If we cannot be the complete author of our choices, determined, then we cannot be held morally responsible for our choices either. Moral responsiblity must have complete authorship of the decision or choice that is made.

  4. philosophermells Says:

    I also believe that moral responsibility is indeed an ethical construct found “within” us. There are many things in life such as letting an innocent child die when it was in your total control to help her, that would be considered morally wrong and you would consider yourself to be morally responsible for her death. It is something you feel inside you that you know is wrong, not something that is external to you or outside your control. As Christians, we must understand that this “moral law” or “natural law” is something created by God–as I understand it to be.

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