One of the central questions of philosophy has always been a debate as to whether or not humans are free to make their own choices, or whether or not the causality of the external world affects are ability to make choices. This question is important because it underlies the centrality of what it means to be human and how culture is constructed. If freedom to make choices exists, then institutions such as prisons are just, because they punish on the basis of the assumption that someone who has committed a crime was acting freely and of his own violation. Looking at the evidence, both real and metaphysical, I take the posture that freewill does exist and those who do not believe in it only do so because they confuse one perspective with which to view reality as the only perceptive, i.e., the reality.
There are two types of freedom that must be considered when asking if humans have freewill, circumstantial freedom—freedom from jail—and metaphysical freedom—freedom to choose one’s own destiny (Emp, 1).
The question of freewill versus determinism began as a question in the sphere of philosophy, but it has also become an important question of psychology (McLeod, 1). The determinist believes that “all behavior is caused by preceding factors and is thus predictable.” They will further argue that the casual laws of the universe prove that our destinies are determined. When it comes to matters of celestial objects, we know that from Newton’s second law of physicals that every action causes and equal and opposite reaction.
Therefore the determinist would look at a murderer and say that he is chained to every event that both created him and led him to the point of murder. So the real culprit to the murder is the configuration of the universe and every event from the Big Bang that created the culprit up to the point of the action.
But I say that human psychology is more complicated than that of the universe. While the determinist would say that a complete understanding of our neural network in the brain could predict our psychology, they are using Newtonian physical to solve a quantum problem. On the sub-atomic level, we see that matter no longer acts in determined and predictable patterns. Randomness is the central component at this level. If you break the brain down, it is composed of these sub-atomic particles, which by our current understanding of quantum physics do not act in any sort of predictable way.
The important question is this: are the movements of the sub-atomic, atomic, and neural cells that make up the mind moving the will? Or, is the free-will of the individual affecting the trajectory and movement of these particles? I support the former conclusion.
Some determinists come to their conclusions from a religious stand-point, claiming that since God knows in advance what will happen, then it is inevitable to prevent a person from doing, or prevent something from happening which is already preordained. Austin Cline in his article on Calvinism shows how this philosophy operates. John Calvin believed also that original sins had so infiltrated the human race that even the will of humanity was affected (Cline, 1).
There are two ways to counter the argument that God’s divine knowledge proves humans do not have free will. The first is to argue from the theist’s own perspective. Under this form of argument the question must be ask, “does God’s knowledge of what will happen come from the fact that he knows what a person is going to choose with their freewill?” This is a chicken and egg question and it comes down to perspective. A person could see’s God’s knowledge of all future actions as existing only because his omniscience knows what a person will do.
The other way to argue against this, the one that I prefer, is to argue against the underlying assumption of their existing a being with supreme knowledge of the future. The 21st Century seems to be defined as a movement away from the traditional, stringent religious doctrines of the past. While it is outside of the scope of this essay to present an argument against the existence of an omniscient God, it is important to realize that this brand of determinism rests on an assumption of God’s existence, which is, at best, suspect.
Both of the arguments for determinism come not from a place of objective philosophy, but instead from a place of perspective. In the sense of the underlying physics of determinism, the question is whether the mover is the agent or the underlying physics of the subatomic particles move the agent. If a shift in perspective changes the nature of the argument, than the argument itself becomes suspect. Human societies are built with laws that presuppose human freedom. The philosophical arguments against free will are based on shaky ground that is perspective based instead of philosophically based. Because of this I side with those who believe in freewill.
Cline, Austin. "free will vs. determinism." free will vs. determinism. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/bldef_freewill.htm>.
Cline, Austin . "Calvinism." Calvinism. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/western/bldef_calvinism.htm>.
"Free will." - FreeThoughtPedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Free_will>.
"Freewill and Determinism in Psychology." Simply Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/freewill-determinism.html>.