Free Will Today Essay

1451 words - 6 pages

When we go out into the world are our actions really a result of our free will or were they predetermined by conditions in our past? The determinist and the fatalist believe these fixed conditions in our past transcend any notion that agents have the power to act otherwise than they in fact do. Determinists follow the idea that at any given moment, there is one and only one future state of affairs that is consistent with the physical laws and the state of affairs at that moment. Fatalists believe that whatever happens is unavoidable because events that occur are inevitable by the causal conditions that precede it (Taylor 55). These two doctrines seem to stem from the same belief: our actions are not free due to some past, fixed condition. Because of this, a fatalist can be considered a type of determinist. This way of thinking poses a threat on what we call free will. If our actions are bound to past conditions, then our 'free will' is nothing more than an infant's security blanket. The determinist and fatalist beliefs about past conditions create a problem for those who think we have free will.Some philosophers agree with the ideas of determinism and have a difficult time believing that they have control over future events by way of choosing their volitions. But is determinism 'the way of the cosmos'? If so, what makes determinism true? Let us take a step back and examine what makes determinism valid. "Whether determinism is true depends in the characteristics of the laws of physics," (Van Inwagen 48). If these physical laws are vague or can be broken then nothing can be concluded about the current state of the world. All actions would be random and therefore indeterministic. If all actions were random then we would not have the freedom to do as we please. This is why some people believe that we live in a deterministic world. Now, continuing with determinism, we face another problem. As was stated previously, determinism says 'there is one and only one future state of affairs.' Supporters of determinism do not say that this one particular future was destined to be; they merely say that it just happened the way that it happened. Any other outcome is possible, but there is only one future state of affairs. To sum up, our futures are uncertain except that there is only one possible future. On the surface of things, this does not seem to inhibit our freedom. But, if we have only one possible future, then it must not be possible to cause any events that would produce an alternate future. Following this statement, an agent in this deterministic world would not be able to produce any actions or events that do not correspond with his single future. In other words, he is not free to do other than what he does. We say that this agent does not have free will because he is unable to change his one, determined future. Defenders of determinism have a hard time believing that we have freedom of action if we live in a deterministic world.Like determinism,...

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