The Question Of Free Will: Descartes, Hume, And Nietzsche

2474 words - 10 pages

The power of acting without necessity and acting on one’s own discretions, free will still enamors debates today, as it did in the past with philosophers Nietzsche, Descartes, and Hume. There are two strong opposing views on the topic, one being determinism and the other “free will”. Determinism, or the belief a person lacks free will and all events including human actions are determined by forces outside the will of an individual contrasts the entire premise of free will. Rene Descartes formulates his philosophical work through deductive reasoning and follows his work with his system of reasoning. David Hume analyzes philosophical questions with inductive reasoning and skeptism with a strong systematic order. Neither a systematic philosopher nor a rigid thinker, Nietzsche offers his own nihilistic spin on the topic of free will. The three different approaches of free will by Nietzsche, Hume, and Descartes all obtain their strong suits as well as their pitfalls. Nietzsche insists free will is created by theologians and therefore denies its existence, while Descartes embraces free will, and Hume individualizes the meaning of free will.
With the “Design Argument” in Meditations on First Philosophy to ignite his proclamation of the topic of free will, Descartes summons free will is given entirely through the creator, God. With his robust belief of God, Descartes concludes free will attributes to God’s creation of a person. Descartes announces, “I make mistakes because the faculty of judging the truth, which I got from God, is not, in my case infinite” (54-55, Meditations). Descartes believes errors of judgment are given to him from God, but in the end the choice is up to no one but himself. He takes full responsibility for his decisions, the ultimate attribute of free will. Explaining further, “…errors depend on simultaneous concurrence of two cases: the faculty of knowing, that is in me and the faculty of choosing…” (56-57, Meditations). The power of knowing and the power of choosing combined lead one to create faults, nothing more and nothing fewer. A person, God’s creation, is made to decide and follow certain paths, and errors will be made due to the finite abilities of a person. It is a mistake to not take advantage of this freedom of the will, for it is the infinite God’s plan. Descartes’ philosophy revolves around certainty and entrustment of God, so it comes at no surprise the backbone of free will is based on belief of God. Descartes pronounces, “…it is an imperfection in me that I do not use my freedom well” (61-62, Meditations). If free will, or freedom as he states, is misused, that indicates only an imperfection in him. Full responsibility for mishaps in judgments and decisions are only caused by an individual’s finite ability given from an infinite being. Further Descartes says, “…willing is merely a matter of being, able to do or not do the same thing” (57-58, Meditations). Descartes entrusts being alive accompanies obtaining a...

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