Free Will in A Clockwork Orange and Skinner's Freedom and the Control of Man
Socrates once said, "Know thyself," and over two thousand years later we're still perplexed with the complexities of human behavior. The concept of free will has been debated and challenged by science, religion, and philosophy throughout history. By free will, I mean our ability to choose and behave as we wish, without our choices being determined by outside sources. Such a notion has been discussed and disputed by philosophers like B.F. Skinner, Robert Kane, William Lycan, and Richard Hanley in very different ways.
In order to better understand the arguments of Skinner and Kane, we must first understand the concept of determinism. Determinism is the idea that all events are caused, occurring only as effects of causes before them. For example, the event of my bringing an umbrella to work was caused, or determined, by a rainstorm or perhaps by the day's weather forecast predicting rain. Whatever the reason, determinism follows that a later event is inevitable due to its earlier cause. If true, determinism holds that the future is fixed and unchangeable, in much the same way the past is unchangeable in time travel. If true, determinism leaves only one possible effect for each subsequent event. Influencing the ideas of determinism is the religious conception of predestination. Here the idea is that God has determined beforehand who will go to heaven and hell and nothing can be done to change the fixed and determined outcome. Predestination has been criticized by some because it seems to lead to fatalism. If our destinies are already decided, we seem to lack the free will to control our future. But believers in predestination believe that if God has destined us to Hell, He only did so because He knew beforehand that we'd live a life of sin. Those of us bound for Heaven wouldn't be heading there if we didn't live life according to God's law. Therefore, none of our actions can surprise God, because He knows beforehand whether or not we will get to Heaven. In this way, our destiny is both determined and caused by our actions, similar to backward causation in time travel when the cause can occur after the effect. This does not lead to fatalism, though, because our actions, sinful or not, are anything but useless. They will determine where we'll spend our eternal life. While predestination doesn't necessarily lead to fatalism, it has led some to question the concept of free will. If, for example, God knows beforehand that I'll bring an umbrella to work, how can I not bring the umbrella? And if I can't, then how am I free? So determinism, if true, seems to mean we cannot have free will.
Indeterminism, however, argues that not all events are caused by an earlier event. In fact, a strong reading of indeterminism would say that if there has been even one exception to determinism, then determinism must be false. Consider the following scenario: It's...