Do Humans Have Free Will Essay

Essay/Term paper: Free will versus determinism

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Free Will Versus Determinism


The controversy between free will and determinism has been argued
about for years. What is the difference between the two? Looking in a
dictionary, free will is the power, attributed to human beings, of making free
choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such
as fate or divine will. Free will allows free choice. Yet, determinism is the
total opposite. Determinism has this definition: The philosophical doctrine
that every event, act, and decision is the inescapable consequence of
antecedents that are independent of the human will. Determinism states that
humans have no free will to choose what they wish. That seems real extreme and
harsh. Even though this is what determinism is, doesn't mean that the
determinists are trying to steal your freedom. It's only what they believe
because of religion and cause and effect. In religion, many people believe in
the existence of a god supports determinism. The basis of god is that he is
all-knowing and all-powerful. If free will is allowed, there would be
decisions and actions in which God could not know due to the person's choice.
This would limit God's omnipotence, which is unacceptable to some. The other
argument for determinism is causation, or causes and effects. This argument
depends on relationships that should happen with the same results every time,
such as a baseball breaking a window, breaking the window. Basing on this,
everything in the universe has a cause. And if all the causes and the events
were known, then it would be possible to easily predict the future. If
everything can be foreseen, then this proves that nothing that anyone does can
change the courses of the future. This, of course, is not possible.
Determinism says that what you do can be the cause of what your life turns out
to be. This can be true. Yet, you can act otherwise that would steer you off
that path of where your life was heading. Common sense tells us that we can
change, which determinism opposes to. It also says that if we feel we are not
forced, we could have acted differently. That is why I choose to side with
free will. Determinism has too many extremes and limits that, already shown,
is not possible in this world.

Free will is the mind's ability to choose with intelligence. That
doesn't mean that our choice has all the freedom in the world. Our choices
cannot and obviously should not be totally free from our knowledge, values and
perceptions of everyday life and the things around us. Our choices are not
free from past thoughts and decisions or from outside influences. The freedom
in freewill is not the dismissal of these influencing factors: our self
awareness, our imagination, our ability to seek out knowledge and project the
future, and our awareness of and observing our own thinking. This is our
source of freedom. This makes us self-determined, being aware of what we want.
The proper understanding of free will is that choices are not free from
influences, but free to make intelligent choices.


If determinism were true, no person would be able to change his
actions, therefore no one could ever be held morally responsible for his own
actions. Common sense says that we can change our actions by our own choice.
Everyone in this world has common sense. In this argument determinism is
definitely not true. One can want to do something, but from past experiences,
can stop and not do the actions he had planned. A thief, who finally got
caught and suffered two awful years in prison, can decide to not steal after
seeing a desirable pair of pants lying openly on a rack. He can restrain
himself from doing wrong, after realizing from past consequences. This leads
to the next argument. We can and have overcome our desires and inclinations.
Both common sense and fact show that we can actively change our behavior. Yet
a determinist would say that we only perceive that we can change our actions
and behavior. But, that too, is false. Before, I wanted an expensive shirt
that I really, really liked, but I, then, remembered the last time I bought a
shirt that expensive, begging on my knees to my mom to buy it for me, and I
rarely wore it. That made my mom really mad. This would leave me to not buy
that desirable shirt, changing my actions ( I really have not bought an
expensive shirt, after that incident ). Free will states that we do not feel
forced to act. At the time of a decision, we feel we have other choices. A
determinist would say to this that such feelings of control are illusions, that
we are just ignorant of all the irresistible forces acting upon us. Again, I
would have to disagree to that. Noticing the consequences of an action could
cause the individual to not act. The feeling of control is not an illusion; we
see the actions and think about what may happen if we acted. Free will says
that at a certain time we feel that we could have chosen to act differently. A
determinist reply to that is that our behavior is already determined by
previous events. Therefore we can not change our behavior. Previous events do
affects us; we cannot ignore that. But, like the previous examples, if the
previous events' consequences were not good, we would mostly likely change,
unless that individual was deranged. These arguments on free will definitely
does not pertain to all people. Everyone is different. Yet mostly likely,
individuals think towards free will.

An implication to determinism is that man becomes nothing more than
a puppet. That may sound cruel, but it is true. Under the rules of
determinism, man must go by past events, doing the same thing he did in the
past, right or wrong. He can not change his behavior, unable to let out his
emotions. The man has become a puppet, being controlled and restricted. And
in everyday life, determinism does not exist in most lives.

It is logical and reasonable to say that the all of free will is a
measure of our humanness. Whatever we choose will effect our future. But we
will base our decisions on what we feel is right, taking in our moral feelings.
Free will is a measure of self-determination that people feel themselves to
possess and by which they make moral judgments.

 

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Do we have free will? CISL San Francisco students were asked this question last month for our writing contest. The winning entry, from Maxime Bindzi, is a wonderful example of a five-paragraph English essay. Enjoy his musings on free will. Congratulations, Maxime! Your writing skills are truly impressive!

Student Writing Sample: “Do We Have Free Will?”

By Maxime Bindzi

Most people think that they’re free because they have the impression that they make their own decisions. I decide for example to listen to rock music, to wear baggy jeans and to talk in a certain way. We consider ourselves as individuals in a society but are we really as original as we think we are? We do have a certain degree of choice but not as much as we think we do. What really happens is that our behavior, our language, our lives are influenced by a lot of factors which don’t reach our proper conscience. Our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causalities.As a teenager or pre-adult, I consider myself as an original person. I’m not part of any fashion music or politic movement; I’m more like a free spirit.

However, I was raised in a poor French neighborhood with its own rules and its own system. My friends and I may probably have been influenced by some rules that made us choose between basketball and ballet, between being bullies or victims. I myself did not face those choices because my mother made them for me. I started basketball and classical music (cello) at the age of 3, and I’m proud to be one of the few in my neighborhood who had been introduced to this kind of music. The only choice I had to make was accepting my difference or be part of the mass. I choose the difference. 

Now I look on my friends lives, they did not made any choices, they just followed the cultural or social wave which allowed them to do certain things and forbade them to do other things. In their mind, they are free to sell drugs, be bad at school and play soccer. The fact is that when everyone has the same occupation, there is no more freedom; it might be for a few of them but for most of them this is a question of social habits. When it comes to social habits there is no more free will. I might sound a bit rough but I truly believe there is none.The reason why I think so is because there are many things that affect our choices, even though man has the capacity of determinism; there will always be a factor which doesn’t reach our mind such as publicity. I was born in an advertisement century, TV is everything. Studies have shown that at the age of 18 we have been exposed to at least 350 000 ads. This is definitely something that can affect our everyday life. When you are part of a group, your choices can be distorted.When we talk about determinism, it is hard to avoid destiny. Am I really free to do whatever I want or was it written before I did it? Is there an entity beyond our imagination (God or something else for the non-believers) who can control our choices or who make us believe that we are free? To conclude, I think that it’s depends of what you mean by free. But if you’re looking for THE answer which will solve everything, give up and pick another question because there is none. However I think that it is useful to ask ourselves, “Are we really free?”.

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