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Freedom And Determinism In Richard Taylor’s Metaphysics

851 words - 3 pages

Freedom and Determinism in Richard Taylor’s Metaphysics

Metaphysics, as discussed by Richard Taylor, can be defined as the effort to think clearly. In order to contemplate a metaphysical issue, we require data (the common beliefs that people hold about that issue). A metaphysical problem occurs when such data do not agree. To resolve the problem, a theory must be established which removes the conflict by either (a) reconciling the conflicting data, or (b) proving one set of data to be false. Metaphysical thought has inspired many theories that attempt to address the conflicting data of determinism and freedom. Freedom, as defined by Hume, is "the ability to act according to the determinations of the will". Freedom allows for moral responsibility.

Determinism is the theory that everything is caused by antecedent conditions, and such things cannot be other than how they are. Though no theory concerning this issue has been entirely successful, many theories present alternatives as to how it can be approached. Two of the most basic metaphysical theories concerning freedom and determinism are soft determinism and hard determinism.

Soft determinism attempts to make the disagreeing data of determinism and freedom compatible. The theory of soft determinism rests on three fundamental claims: (1) the deterministic concept that human behaviour is causally determined; (2) that there is freedom in voluntary behaviour, so long as there is no physical impediment or constraint upon the action; and (3) that the cause of the voluntary behaviour (which is possible in the absence of impediments or constraints) is an internal state of the agent of the action. According to soft determinism, therefore, we are responsible for our actions on occasion that they are not prevented.

The theory of soft determinism allows for negative freedom, but excludes positive freedom. Negative freedom can be defined as the freedom from constraint within a causally determined framework, whilst positive freedom can be the freedom to initiate creative actions. These two types of freedoms can exist either concurrently (as they do in the rights and responsibilities of society) or separately (as they do in the life of a slave).

As soft determinism only allows for negative freedom, it presents a sort of "underprivileged" type of freedom. According to this theory, the inner state of an agent determines at what choices the agent arrives. (Here it is possible to question what causes the inner state of the agent). The deterministic nature of soft determinism requires the answer to be that the inner state is determined. The result of the inner state, therefore, could not have been any different than what...

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