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The Problem Of Free Will Essay

2334 words - 10 pages

In the following essay I will describe the problem of free will and explain several different responses to the problem. These responses will be derived from the determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist views. I will end the essay by arguing that the compatibilist view seems to best address the problem of free will, but does not necessarily solve it.
The problem of free will arises from two conflicting ideas. The first idea is that people have free will. Having free will means that people have the ability to choose and act on what they would like to do. Most people seem accept this idea easily and live their lives believing that to some extent they are in control of the choices they ...view middle of the document...

Concerning determinism, the absence of free will seems to result in people like Bob being stuck on “pre-determined paths” with no control over their future, decisions, or actions (Conee and Sider 113). Therefore under the idea of determinism we could not blame Bob earlier for cheating because he did not actually choose to cheat on his own. Instead, determinism would trace his choice to cheat backwards. For example, maybe Bob was not paying attention when the professor said that notes would not be allowed on the test and that is why he used his notes. Perhaps, Bob was not paying attention to his professor because he was very tired. Perhaps he was tired because he could not fall asleep the night before because his neighbors were playing loud music all night. Determinism could go back even further than that reason because it assumes there are no uncaused events.
Determinists and libertarians respond to the problem of free will by accepting only one of the two ideas discussed earlier. The determinist response holds that the idea of free will cannot be true if “every event has a cause” (Conee and Sider 113). The determinist Paul Rée argued for the idea of every event having a cause by relating examples of a stone, donkey, and murderer. For his stone example, Rée explains how a stone laying on the ground has many “potential states” such as going into the air, becoming dust, or moving along the ground, but for any of those things to happen something must throw the rock in the air, crush it, or force it to move (Rée 337). He also describes how a donkey standing between two haystacks also has “potential states” like the stone (Rée 337). The donkey could choose to eat hay from left or the right haystack, but that would depend on a number of things. For example, one haystack might have smelled better than the other, or one haystack was slightly closer to the donkey. Therefore, the donkey’s choice of one haystack over the other was not caused by the donkey freely choosing it, but rather from others causes, such as the placement of the haystack. Rée argues that people are much like the rock and the donkey, in that, people’s actions are caused by other things. He uses an example of murderer by explaining the cause of the murder could have been influenced by a number of things, such as the murderer’s physiological state (e.g. blood temperature) or how the victim looked at the time (Rée 337).
According to Rée and other determinists, people cannot be praised or blamed because their actions are not done freely and are caused by other factors. Although, currently society still blames and praises people for their actions (Conee and Sider 118). This is a drawback to the determinist response because it would mean all people would have to stop blaming or praising others. Ultimately, society’s justice system would need to be restructured because it would have no grounds to determine a person guilty or innocent. Also, another drawback is that all people would have...

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