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Existence Of Free Will Essay

1636 words - 7 pages

Existence of Free Will

Existence of free will is often argued from introspection. Freedom means choice. Since I chose to write this paper and I could have chosen otherwise, I am free in writing this paper. However, to establish that I could have chosen otherwise, proving that I felt that I could have chosen otherwise is not enough: One must also prove that my choice is the original cause of my motives to write this paper.

According to compatibilists, your action is free if the immediate cause of the action are your thoughts, there is no coercion, no duress (physical or mental), and your thoughts satisfy a certain condition on freedom, which varies depending on the compatibilist. If that is used as definition of freedom, then my writing this paper is free.

Unfortunately, if determinism is true, then the compatibilist freedom is merely an illusion of freedom. In evaluating freedom, we are not interested in counter factual conditionals unless the agent was free to make the conditional true. If a person is being shot, then the person would have been unharmed if he had stopped the bullet. Nevertheless, the person is not free not to be harmed because he was not free to stop the bullet.

According to determinism, my actions today are determined by what had existed a million years ago. Thus, if what happened a million years ago is held fixed, it is (according to determinism) impossible for me not to write this paper. I could only choose not to write this paper by changing what occurred one million years ago, and that is impossible. One can argue that there are some possible worlds in which the past is different and I am not writing this paper. However, we are restricted to this world, freedom of choice means freedom to choose in this world, where the past is unalterable. Existence of possible worlds in which what happened one million years ago was different is irrelevant. Moreover, the only way to show existence of possibilities is through choices and randomness, so if the world is deterministic, there is no evidence that the world can possibly be anything but what it is; deciding what is possible would be a matter of convention and not reality. In a deterministic world, choosing to do otherwise is as impossible as choosing for 2+2 to equal five: Under no circumstance does any person has any choice.

Rejection of determinism, however, is insufficient for free will. Mere randomness does not amount to freedom since it is indistinguishable whether the randomness is generated now or one million years ago. Postulating a free agent is not sufficient either, because of the following argument: Suppose that whenever you act, you act a particular way solely because of the way you are except for the external factors or randomness. At this moment, you cannot change what you are at this moment since at any given time you are what you are at that time. The external factors are also what they are--they can change with time, but we are analyzing them at the...

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