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PHIL 1301 Introduction to Philosophy

Published : 21-Oct,2021  |  Views : 10


1) Does Descartes solve Sextus Empiricus' problem of the criterion? Is there anything we can definitively know? Explain.
2) Who's more right, Descartes or Hume, about the foundations of possible knowledge? Is it reason, or sense experience?

3) Who is right, Kant or Hume, about the foundations of any possible morality? Are moral judgments grounded in rational insight (Kant) or feelings (Hume)?

4) Pick a moral situation that you think illustrates the correctness of one of the moral theories we have covered this semester.  Defend your judgment about it by drawing from at least two of our thinkers.

5) Do we have free will? Explain.


Free Will

One of the common questions in the field of philosophy is whether human beings have free will in which they can choose what they can do with their lives. The free will argument is a thorny and a diverse issue. There is no consensus within philosophy as to whether human beings are free as most of the authorities in this field believe that human beings do not have the free will.  According to (Pronin, Wegner, McCarthy and Rodriguez 218-231) a human being’s behavior is determined by the environment in which an individual thrives in. Besides, the inherent characteristics of a person which characters the personality of an individual play a lot in determining whether one has free will or not (Su 387-390). The discussion on free will has led to a number of suggestions which contradict each other. This paper focuses on a topic on whether human beings have free will, in which it is in agreement with science doctrine of determinism where the actions of a human being are largely determined by the previous events which are intertwined with one's genes.

Determinism is the view that human beings are not able to think and act freely but rather external forces are responsible for taking control of one’s actions (Fischer et al. 8). However, when an outward look is taken, this may not be the case. This is means that whether one is controlled to act in the manner in which they act, the position they take an action is what that matters. On the other hand, libertarianism is the opposite of determinism suggested by Descartes who believes that human beings are capable and have the free will to control their thought and actions devoid of any external force. However, the reality is that we may feel that human beings are free but the environment that surrounds human beings has a lot of effect in shaping one's action (Deci and Ryan 12). On the first impression, it seems that we have total control of what we do since human beings have different capacities and abilities. Consequently, for this reason, terms such as responsible and accountable are much applied in one’s life. The fact that people are held responsible for their actions is wrong because the environment has an immense influence on what people do.  

The characters of human beings are largely determined by one's genes, biology, and the environment. This is factors are beyond the control of any human being. As much as people make decisions to change their characters, this is a manifestation that human beings are not born free hence they have no free will. Case in point, when an individual decides to move to a cheap house because of financial constraints is an example that human beings lack free will since the surrounding has great influence on one's actions and thoughts (Harris 11). Consequently, people’s choices are illusions of choice since there is no such thing as free will. Those individuals who advocate that human beings have free will have to agree that every choice that a human makes is for a reason. If people act according to their will under the libertarian concept, the people must have reasons for their choices or decisions. For example when one decides to buy a cake, one may think that one has the free will do so. However, one may fail to realize that it is hunger which propelled the decision to purchase a cake.

Previous scientific experiments have proved that human beings have no free will. An experiment was conducted by neuroscientist who scanned the brains of participants by telling them to move their arms (Rock, David, Davis, and Jones 16). It was then discovered that the brain had already picked the instruction long before the participants heard the instructions. This means that the brain has was already aware of the instructions before the participants themselves. This implies that human beings do not have free will since they are controlled, and that decisions are made for them long before they make the decision they consider free will. These findings by scientists have proven that human being’s behavior is determined by the mind and that the concept that one has the freedom do to as one wishes is uncalled for. Consequently, free will has huge disparity regarding the society in which all people thrive in. For instance, a criminal in a court of law is judged by the jury who determines whether the action of such a suspect was right of wrong (Mele 5). The fact that people live in a world where they must conform to the laws of the land in which they will be punished upon behaving differently is a good indication that free will is far-fetched.

It is an open secret that our actions are part and parcel of sub-conscious which tries to determine whether one’s decision is viable or not. Those individuals who believe that human beings have free will should realize the reason why they think before making any choices (White 137). If people think through their sub-conscious before making any choice, then one should realize that free will does not exist. Those people who believe in the concept of determinism in which they believe that human beings have free will fail to have proof that can affirm their concept. People always use the term freedom, responsibility and choice in reference that free will exist. However, their proof for free will do not go beyond formulating terms.  Such words are very ambiguous since, in reality, the freedom and the free will that people believe they possess are mitigated and directed by external forces through laws and the mind (Waller, Bruce 534).

In agreement to (Schopenhauer 4) view on free will, having a reason for our actions is important. He suggests that when one makes a decision devoid of giving the reasons for their decisions or actions, then one deemed as foolish and the action is viewed as meaningless. Every individual believes that any viable actions must have reason so that the actions can be reasonable. For this reason (Schopenhauer 4) reiterates that human beings cannot have the free will if one’s actions must have a reason.

Most people think they are free because they can be able to make their decisions. This is because, in religion especially Christianity, most Christians believe that God created them and gave them freedom to do whatever they like. For those who believe in religion and hence believe in free will forget that the same religion has advises them that they are free to do whatever they like as long as their actions are in tandem to what pleases God. This is a clear indication that the concept of freedom does not hold any waters since people are not free but their actions have reason and are aimed at a particular achievement.

They say that is wrong to identify the concept of free will with confusion and randomness. This is because they believe that free will has nothing to do with randomness. People believe that if the environment shapes the way people think and believe then people should shun away from letting the environment shape their actions and use their mind in making any decision of their choice. I say that there is always a set of reason whether rational, irrational, and facts about the environment because they can explain one’s choice. Both those people who believe in free will and those who don’t believe in free will like me will agree that there is always a reason as to why we make certain choices. For this reason, free will is uncalled for since there is no concrete reason as to why people have free will in making their choices. One might object that the environment is not related to shaping one’s way of making choices. This is because people choose what to choose. This means that people can choose their beliefs and also their body movements. This means that the initial choice that people make on the environment is what that determines their choice of their actions hence they are in charge of their actions thus have free will. But I reply that as long as people make choices and are affected by choices they make, then free will is not in existence.

In conclusion, whether or not human beings have free will, has been a topic of discussion among philosophers for decades. What is paramount that human beings should treat themselves as people whose decisions and thoughts are important. The modes of free will that we are left with are still important and comfortable to live with.

Work Cited

Deci, Edward L, and Richard M Ryan. Intrinsic Motivation And Self-Determination In Human Behavior. 1st ed. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. Print.

Fischer, John Martin et al. Four Views On Free Will. 1st ed. Malden [et al.]: Blackwell Publishing, 2010. Print.

Harris, Sam. Free Will. 1st ed. Simon and Schuster, 2012. Print.

Mele, Alfred R. Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Pronin, Wegner, McCarthy, Rodriguez. “Everyday magical powers: The role of apparent mental causation in the overestimation of personal influence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91 ,(2006): 218-231.

Rock, David, Josh Davis, and Elizabeth Jones. "One Simple Idea that can Transform Performance Management." People and Strategy 36.2 (2013): 16-9. ProQuest. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. Print.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essay On The Freedom Of The Will. 1st ed. Dover Publications, 2012. Print.

Su, Huei Chun. "Is Social Justice for Or Against Liberty? the Philosophical Foundations of Mill and Hayek's Theory of Liberty." Review of Austrian Economics 22.4 (2009): 387- 390. ProQuest. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Waller, Bruce N. "Empirical Free Will and the Ethics of Moral Responsibility." Journal of Value Inquiry 37.4 (2003): 534. ProQuest. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

White, Morton. From A Philosophical Point Of View: Selected Studies. 1st ed. Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.

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