I. Human Nature and Human Freedom

II. Determinism 

III. Hard Determinism or Incompatibilism

IV Libertarianism, Free Will or Interventionism

V. Soft Determinism or Compatibilism

VI. Free Actions, Free Persons and Free Societies

VII. Examples of Freedom and non Freedoms


 One way of approaching that very large question, "What is human nature?" is by confronting the somewhat smaller question of human choice and human freedom. Do we have free will? Do my decisions originate with me or is everything determined? The issue has been central in both western and eastern philosophy, and had its origins in western religions over concerns about God's creative powers and omniscience. Eastern religions lean in the direction of a more impersonal Divine process which proceeds in an ineluctable and necessary way. Hinduism and Buddhism have strong fatalistic streaks. But, the modern scientific view of both the natural world and the human world raises many of the same questions and challenges to the notion of human freedom. The Darwinian view of the origin of the human species, DNA and genetic research and contemporary break-throughs in neurophysiology lend strong evidence to the view that what we are and what we do are a function of our biological make up. Psychological and sociological theories, by and large, lead in the same direction. Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner differ radically in their approach to understanding human beings, but both of them share a strongly deterministic view. Fundamental to Freud is the notion that there are no human accidents. Slips of the tongue, gestures, dreams, hand washing are all caused by deep seated factors of which we are mostly unaware. The Unconscious dominates and "controls" our conscious lives, and most often the REAL reasons for our actions are beyond our knowledge and control. B.F. Skinner and behaviorism are not as popular as they once were, but many of his central theses have become part of common sense. Our behavior (or actions) are the result of the way our environment (parents, schools, society) reinforced or failed to reinforce past behavior. Essentially, we just are a big bundle of reinforced behavior patterns. Human behavior is more complex but no different in KIND than the rat who learns to run mazes by being reinforced or the pigeon who is taught how to play ping-pong. A classic debate has been whether nature (genetics) or nurture (environment) is the more fundamental for human nature, but the deterministic point of view wins on either account. Human beings are a product of nature AND nurture. Many of you are interested in psychology so that you can understand human behavior, but our most fundamental way of understanding phenomena of any kind is to delve into causes. Psychology is often characterized as a science which attempts to explain and predict human behavior. The view that human choices and actions are caused is part of a larger philosophical theory called DETERMINISM.

 II. DETERMINISM , very simply stated, is the theory that all events are caused; we live in an ordered universe and all change occurs with law-like regularity. This is a metaphysical view about the nature of things and the world. It is sometimes argued that determinism implies that everything in the future can be, in principle, predicted, and that events in the past are, in principle, explainable. There are natural laws of science which have the form: All X's are (or, are followed by) Y's which is equivalent to: If X occurs then Y occurs. Thus, if we know the initial condition (X occurs) and the law (If X then Y) we can explain/predict the occurrence of Y. Determinism is the contention that all physical (and mental) events in the universe can be incorporated under such laws. This is NOT the view that we actually can, at the present time, predict everything. It is the view that events are predictable in principle. Our ignorance of facts is enormous and we certainly do not know all the laws and statistical regularities which describe events

 Rocks of sufficient size and thrown with sufficient speed cause glass to break. Lowering the temperature of water below 32 degrees causes water to freeze. Knives through hearts cause death. There are causes for why my car starts, and if it doesn't, there are causes for that too. When we say that some event "x" causes some event "y" we seem to be asserting that given that x occurred, then y HAD to occur, or that it MUST occur.

 III. HARD DETERMINISM is the theory that because DETERMINISM is true, no one is free; no one has free will (or choice) and no one truly acts freely. Since philosophers like to give arguments for theories in a standard form of argument.

 1. Determinism is true: all events are caused.

2. Therefore, all human desires and choices are caused.

3. For an action to be free it would have to be the result of a choice, desire or act of will which had no cause. That is, free WILL means that the Will or choosing "mechanism" initiates the action.


4. Therefore there can be no free choices or free will.

 The HARD Determinist does specify what WOULD have to be the case for there to be freedom: A free act or choice would be one which is uncaused, or happened independent of causes, or completely disconnected from preceding events. Of course, they believe that no such free acts exist. The "Will" or person doing the choosing and acting would have to be a primum mobile (first mover), a new beginning, or an original creative source of activity. But, this cannot be, it is argued, since surely actions are caused by wants and desires, wants and desires flow from our character, and our character is formed by environment and heredity. Trace the causes of any event or action back and it will have sources which are outside ourselves and our control.

 Evidence for determinism comes from common sense and science. You simply would not believe a medical report which announced that it had been discovered that cancer had no cause, or that there was no cause for your car not starting. In human affairs too, we firmly believe that the better we get to know someone the less surprised we will be about what they do in particular circumstances. In other words the better we get to know the initial conditions (his/her character) the more reliable predictions we can make. When you make a mistake you often say, "I didn't know ol' Billybob as well as I thought." You attribute your mistake to ignorance of all the initial conditions; you do not believe that the action was without cause. The progress of science, the great advances in explaining and predicting events in both the natural and the social sciences which heretofore seemed deeply mysterious is offered as evidence that all events could be explained if we searched long enough. Psychology as a science of human behavior is based on the notion that one can come up with causes of behavior and formulate laws of behavior. Depending on the particular approach to psychology, these laws could link up behavior with mental antecedents, mental events with other mental events, or it may be found that all so-called mental activity has a physical cause or basis in brain activity. That is, it may turn out that explanations of all human activity will be reducible to biological or neurological explanations. Behaviorism is one psychological theory which claims that behavior can be understood and explained in terms of patterns of reinforcement without appealing to mental events. But determinism does not rise or fall with any particular psychological theory. Nineteenth century psychology which emphasized introspection of consciousness, still tried to find laws governing thought processes and indeed the expression "laws of thought" is common in 19th century psychology textbooks. The last kind of evidence comes from introspective analysis of our behavior. Often when we really think about why we did something we find causes of which we were not first aware. Sometimes we find unconscious motivations which originate from happenings in early childhood. Other times we can be deeply puzzled about the causes of our own behavior, but we invariably think that with enough analysis or introspection the causes could be found.

 Some puzzles about determinism: What is the logical status of the thesis: all events are caused; that is, what if anything would count against the thesis? If one tries to bring up a counterexample, the determinist standard answer seems to be "We don't know what the cause is, but there must be one." Sometimes this sounds like begging the question. Secondly, do we know what we mean when we say, "x causes y?" Does this mean that y must occur or that y necessarily occurs, given that x occurs? Since, we only know what causes what by observation, it seems that all we can assert is "y always has followed x." That is, there is an invariable and regular set of experiences we have had, but this is a far cry from saying that y MUST occur, given that x occurred. Thirdly, Is their analysis of the meaning of "free" correct? Do we mean that something is uncaused when we say that it is free? Finally, haven't deterministic models of the physics of the universe been challenged by indeterministic ones. Isn't there suppose to be a basic indeterminacy at the quantum level? And, wouldn't this indicate that there are some chance elements in nature?

 Determinism does have answer for all of these questions, and the debate goes on.

 IV. Libertarianism , Indeterminism, Free Will (Interventionist)

 The Libertarian contends that there are some things in the universe which are uncaused, namely, decisions of the will or self. The will does act independently of causes, thus determinism is false. The will acts "in the context" of reasons, desires, and motivations, but in the final analysis the will or self just chooses. Some libertarians (indeterminists) would say that there is genuine chance operating in the universe, and therefore some occurrences are unpredictable, other prefer the term self determinism. One philosopher, C.A. Campbell says that we must consider the Self apart from the character. (Descartes also thought that he had a direct intuition of a Real substantial Self.) The character is a product of heredity and environment, and our wants, desires, and even our moral beliefs stem from the character. However, in the case of moral temptation when our strongest desire is to do A but we recognize the duty to do B the Self can "rise above or transcend the character" as so far formed and do B. Obviously, if there is not sufficient strength of will or self to overcome A, Campbell would still want to say that we chose to do A freely, and are therefore blameworthy. Another way of putting this is to say that the character supplies the necessary conditions for decision and action but that there are occasions in which the sufficient condition is supplied by the self. Such a view is often called self determinism since the self is the final determinant of action. However, don't be fooled because the self, on this view, is the stopping place; it is a "first mover." Campbell insists that the Self must be the sole source (cause) of the choice in order to hold someone responsible, and the whole motivation for this view is to provide a very "robust" sense of moral responsibility. This is recognized in the saying, "the buck stops here." What this means is that in tracing moral responsibility there must be an original and final stopping place for the tracing of the sources of the action. There can be no further tracing back. Roderick Chisholm's view is quite similar, and he calls his position Agent Causation in contrast to the determinists' view that there is only Event Causation. Agent causation is just the view that people are different that the rest of physical nature; Agents (i.e., Human Beings) can cause things to happen just thought diliberation and choice.

 Deliberation is cited as an everyday example of a non-causal activity. To deliberate presupposes that one can choose from among several alternatives, and that these alternatives are equally possible. There is no hidden cause behind the scene making one of the alternative inevitable. As evidence for this is the quite certain conviction from direct introspection that one could have chosen differently, even if everything had been the same. Determinism, on the other hand, entails same cause, same effect. If everything is exactly the same then the same effect will result.

 Jean Paul Sartre, a twentieth century French Existentialism, tries to spell out the sources of freedom in the nature of consciousness. Consciousness in intentional; this just means that consciousness is always consciousness of something. Consciousness isn't a thing or stuff, it always points beyond itself. For Sartre, this is the source of freedom, because there is always a gap or a "nothingness" between consciousness and that of which it is conscious. This is most clear when thinking about the past. Your memory is a thought of or about the past, so, in a sense you are here in the present, thinking about the past. There is a gap between the you who is here and now, and that which you are thinking about. The past doesn’t constitute you, just as the things that you are conscious of do not "fill you up." For Sartre this means that unlike billiard balls knocking against each other in a causal way, the past cannot really touch or causally direct your present decisions. For Sartre, existentialism means that we are thrown into the world as bare existents, and we must create our own natures or essences. At any moment we can re-create ourselves. Of course there are facts about us and facts about our situations, but facts by themselves are meaningless, and only humans create meanings. We interpret the facts and are thus responsible for how they effect us. We are even responsible for how we react to the emotions we have. For Sartre, it is more correct to say we are sad because we cried, we use choose emotional states as strategies to deal with the world. When we choose we choose a whole complex, reason-act-end or emotion-expression-"hoped for outcome." The point again is that we DECIDE how to react to things, we are not mere billiard balls pushed around by emotions or events.

 [Note: A big difference underlying the dispute between indeterminists and determinists has to do with a two entirely ways of approaching the universe. The scientific determinists take facts, observations, and an experimental approach to the world as having priority. Indeterminists often believe that there are some direct immediate internal experiences which have priority; Descartes is a good example of this point of view. For example, I can be more certain that I am having internal experiences of a particular sort, e.g., pains, feelings, than I can ever be about an observed fact. And, the indeterminist thinks that it is a direct and certain experience that I can choose either of two alternatives. The future is open. Frankly, I think that indeterminists also think that it is just as much an obvious "fact" that people are sometimes responsible as it is that there are motives for human actions. So, any theory which denies responsibility just flies in the face of an obvious human reality. Well, before you jump on the this free will bandwagon, look at the way that compatibilism handles moral responsibility.

 Some questions for the libertarian: How can we tell in another person whether an act was simply determined by the character or whether there was a failure of the self or will? Besides, this self is a very illusive. It doesn't seem to be a morally responsible self at all since it is by its very nature apparently immune from any causal influence. What would be the point in blaming or punishing a person for an act of a Self, if that Self was exempt from causal influence? Also, the evidence from direct introspection is suspect. Does introspection tell you that you could have acted otherwise everything being the same? How could introspection give evidence for such a counterfactual? Besides, don't you usually say "I could have acted otherwise knowing what I know now or if I had been more prudent?" The feeling of freedom is just the feeling that no one or no circumstances forced me or compelled me to choose as I did. Indeed often I realizes that if everything were exactly the same I would do the same damn fool thing again!

 [The following is a slightly alternative way of putting these criticisms.]

 Those acts which are merely an expression of character are determined and are not free according to Campbell. But, how can one distinguish when an act is caused by the strongest desire of the character without the self being involved from the case where the self is involved but succumbs to the strongest desire? Is such a self separated from character intelligible? Campbell appeals to one's own inner experience. He says that there are cases in which I know (with certainty?) that I made the decision. I have the feeling that in such cases I could have acted otherwise. Supposedly, by introspection I am convinced that there is a self and that the self stands above the various reasons and desires which pull in various directions. The self can break with the past and choose to go in an entirely new direction. Does introspection reveals any such knowledge about a self?


V. Soft Determinism, Compatibilism, or Reconcilism believe that determinism and freedom, properly understood are compatible. They agree that with the Hard Determinist that all events are caused, or at least they agree that this is an important working assumption. Moreover, it is essential that those acts for which we are to be held morally responsible be caused. This position holds that people are free, but radically disagrees with both the Hard Determinist and the Libertarian on what it means to be free. For the Compatibilist 'free' means the power or ability to do what one wants. Those actions are free which are not coerced, not compelled, not constrained, or not forced. Thus, although all actions which are compelled are caused, it is not the case that all caused actions are compelled.

 Admittedly, it is often difficult to decide if there is sufficient coercion or compulsion to say that a person is not free. I advocate a common sense approach which takes into account the context of the action. Usually those cases in which you would not hold a person responsible are those in which you would say that they were not free. And, our usual concern about freedom is to be free from being coerced or compelled by other people. For example, when someone sticks a gun in your face and demands the money from the cash register, you are not held responsible for the loss of the money. In some esoteric sense of the word you were "free" to resist; you did what you thought best given the circumstances. However, in the ordinary sense of the words you did not want to give him the money, your action was not fully voluntary. One has to use common sense in judging the amount of coercion required to judge that an action is not free. There will, of course, be differences of opinion; for example, think of the sorts of considerations and arguments which might be used in a case where date rape is the charge. It is helpful to consider the kind of evidence which is presented in a court room to determine if an act was a voluntary and non-coerced. This suggests that we need to talk of degrees of freedom just as there are degrees of coercion.

 The Compatibilist wants to move the whole controversy out of the realm of metaphysics and the nature of the world and focus instead on the practical ethical, legal and political meanings of the terms liberty, freedom, voluntary etc.

 The Hard Determinist and the Libertarian will might join together in opposing this conception of freedom. They would argue that if the wants and desires which result in actions are themselves caused and if the causal series can be traced back to sources outside the person's control (the sources may even have existed before the person was born) then the person cannot be either free or responsible for the actions. The Compatibilist would argue that the important point is not the ultimate source of my wants, but the fact that they are mine and that I can act on them. There is an important distinction between acting on my OWN wants and being made to act on someone else's wants; the causes of the wants are irrelevant. Also, and this point is important. although to a great extent my wants and desires (my character) are given to me, I can change my wants and desires (my character) if I want. With effort, education, or training one can go from "I wish I liked X" to "liking X" or from "I wish I didn't want to smoke" to not wanting to smoke and not smoking. Of course any desire to change my character has a source within my character and has a cause, but is this a problem? I don't form my "original character," but how could I? I would have to exist before I existed. The notion of choosing my original character is self contradictory.

 The inner experience of freedom which Campbell talks about is just the feeling that nothing forced or coerced me to act. In the expression, "I could have acted otherwise," "could" means "had the power to." This power consists in a law; the law that if a person definitely desires, then the volition to do X will follow. Thus, when I am agonizing about some stupid thing I did, and say, "Oh! I didn't have to do that I could have acted otherwise" I am recognizing that nothing prevented me from doing otherwise. I did it all by myself. But this is quite compatible with the recognition that if it all happened over again and all the initial conditions were the same, I would do the same stupid thing again.

 The soft determinist agrees with the hard determinist in believing that events in the universe occur in accordance with causal laws; however, some people (even determinists themselves) confuse two different meanings of the term "law." A civil law enacted by a legislature prescribes how people must behave; there is a certain coercive force built into civil laws. But a scientific law describes how events do, as a matter of fact, occur. In other words, these descriptions tell us what does happen; causes do not compel, force, or necessitate effects. If a person violates a civil law, the law remains the same and the person is modified (by punishment). If a physical law is violated, the law has to be modified. (Actually, it wasn't ever really a law in the first place.) Determinism is not the same as fatalism. If an event Y is fated to happen, then it will happen no matter what events precede it. If an event Y is determined (caused) then it happens because certain specific events X precede it; if the preceding events X are changed, the occurrence of Y can be prevented. The fact that events are caused allows us to change conditions to prevent unwanted events, e.g., build wider and safer roads to prevent accidents. However, if the future is fated then nothing whatsoever can be done to avoid the fated event. In fatalistic stories the unfortunate character is usually warned ahead of time of the fated event.

 Soft determinism contends that moral responsibility requires determinism with respect to a person's actions, i.e., to hold Jones responsible for doing A requires that A was caused by Jones' desire. Roughly speaking, the questions: Who is free? Who is responsible? Who is to be praised, blamed or punished? Who is to be deterred, reformed, rehabilitated? are closely connected. Jones does A freely and is responsible for A to the extent that it was caused by a decision or a desire of Jones. (Jones wasn't forced to act on someone else's desire.) Jones' desire to do A might have been caused by his upbringing or his society; however, it would do no good to punish the family or society. (Although, as a social reformer, you may want to change conditions in society as well.) In order to prevent Jones from doing acts of kind A in the future, Jones has to be punished. There would be no point of punishing Jones (except perhaps the deterrence of others) unless we assumed the punishment would cause Jones to act differently! Thus moral responsibility actually requires causation!

 Some questions for the compatibilist: Since the compatibilist accepts determinism, isn't it still true that whatever I do (from having a beer this afternoon to trying to change my character) is caused by events which existed before I was born? Maybe causes don't literally force or compel things to occur, but real scientific laws do seem to establish a link between the cause and the effect which is stronger than mere regularity. Soft determinists have a tendency to want to avoid the metaphysical problem of the nature of causal connections and all the evidence which increasingly shows that all our fundamental character traits are fixed by our genetic inheritance and very early childhood training.

 Finally, do we have a clear notion of what constitutes coercion? If I buy Ultra-brite toothpaste, is this a free choice or one which has been "coerced" in some sense by Madison Avenue techniques? Can a sharp line be drawn between "causal influences" (for instance giving someone good reasons or a "persuasive" argument) and out and out coercion. The feminist critic might raise questions about the focus on the autonomous rational model of the individual making choices in isolation - "I am free when I can do what I want." Doesn't freedom have to be considered in contexts and as a relation between people. Can I really have a commitment to freedom as such unless I have a commitment to everyone's freedom; and, indeed can I truly be free unless everyone else is also free?

 Finally, philosopher differ about whether reasons are causes? That is, if I act after carefully reasoning out the course of action, does this mean the reasons caused my action? Don't reasons seem to operate differently than causes, and doesn't that mean that determinism as it applies in the natural sciences is irrelevant to understanding human activity?




 Remember, the Soft Determinist or compatibilist gives the following definition of freedom: A free act is one which is: (1) not compelled, not coerced, not restrained, not forced, and (2) a free act is done from, or on the basis of one's own rational and conscious wants and desires. Are there further factors to consider?

 The Hard Determinist might reply, "What do you mean by `YOUR wants and desires?' After all, all your wants and desires are caused by factors in your environment over which you have no control."

 The SD replies, "Yes, my wants and desires are caused, but still there is a very important difference between those cases in which my wants determine what I do and those cases when I am forced to do what someone else wants me to do. Why should I care that my desires are caused? I feel free precisely when my wants and desires make a difference. That is why there is all the difference in the world between choosing to jump out the window because I no longer want to live and being thrown out the window (forced out!) despite the fact that I do want to live.

 B. FREE PERSONS (Psychological Freedom)

 However, more can be said. I can, to some extent choose my wants and desires (i.e., my character) if I want to. In fact I am in exactly the same place with respect to changing my character as others were (my parents) in forming my character. We say things like, "I wish that I like to ski" or "I want to get rid of my desire to smoke." You might consider your dislike of skiing and your desire to smoke as first order desires, and your desire to change as your second order desires. Then we might say that you are free to the extent that your second order desires can change or reform your first order desires. On this account, some people are freer than others; just as there are degrees of coercion so there are different degrees of ability to change. If you have been raised in such a rigid way that you cannot change no matter how hard you try and no matter what techniques you use then you may not be very free (although you can still act on your own desires, that is, as long as you do not live in a totalitarian state most of your acts will not be compelled.) In extreme cases we might even talk of a pathological incapacity for change; a personality which is so rigid that it cannot be changed even in the face of self destructive behavior.

 Thus, we can say that persons are free to the extent to which they have an ability to change their character in light of new information and new long term goals. In this respect then, perhaps a full conception of freedom would have to add a third conception to the two part definition of freedom:

 (3) the ability to change one's wants and desires (one's character)

 The HD will still complain that your desire to change your character and the direction in which you want to change it will be determined by the society in which you live. The soft determinist must agree, but says that there is still a big difference between being able to change if you want and not being able to change no matter how much you want.


 The ability to change one's own character takes more that individual effort. We are social creatures, and thus are ability to change along with our ability to imagine different alternatives for ourselves will depend upon the society and culture within which we develop. This does lead the further consideration of a free society. Conditions for a free society might be defined as one which:

 (a) allows for freedom of action, that is, laws are limited to those which prohibit conduct which is harmful to others. Such basic laws enhance overall freedom by bringing about a situation in which we can pursue our wants and desires without fear of intimidation by others. Therefore, people have freedom of opportunity; they can pursue courses of action based on their own desires (in short, they can do what they want). This can be further developed into a bill of rights - rights are protections of the basic liberties people must have in order to be fully developed human beings.

 (b) at the very least, tolerates a wide range of life styles (character), and at its best encourages a wide range of individual personal conceptions of the good life. Another way of putting this is that society should not just allow freedom of opportunity but has an obligation to create a healthy psychological and legal environment where people can both imagine possible opportunities and believe that they have a chance of fulfilling their choices. Such a society will value pluralism and diversity in ideas and ways of living. It also will realize the necessity, at certain stages in its development to provide "role models" so that people can see people like themselves in various positions in society. A non-free society might discriminate and make life less free for some people by (I) preventing some class from entering some occupations or living in a certain area; or, (ii) though not explicitly preventing people from doing these things, creating or maintaining an atmosphere which makes it improbable or impossible for some class to conceive of themselves engaging in certain occupations or living in certain areas or carrying on their affairs in unpopular ways.

 These are the sorts of factors which John Stuart Mill talks about in his classic work, On Liberty. People are not isolated, so for persons to achieve liberty they must live in liberty loving societies.

 In sum, it seems to me that we can conceive of possible worlds and possible societies which would be freer than ours. A freer world would be one in which it would be easier to change our bad habits and reform our characters. It would also be one which had a good deal more tolerance, less oppression and racism and a positive love of diversity. By the same token, it is easier to think of worlds and which are less free than ours, that is, a world in which you could not do what you wanted, could not change anything about yourself no matter how much you disliked it, and had a full set of rules and regulations which cover every aspect of behavior. Similar considerations apply to our society. We can conceive of `ideal' societies with less blatant discrimination, more tolerance of diversities, and greater possibilities for all people to fully believe in the openness of opportunities. Education is crucial here, since true education, in contrast to indoctrination, presents alternatives, and encourages dissent and criticism. Needless to say we have many examples both in the present and historically of societies which are a great deal less free than ours. Much more could be said about free societies or freedom in relationship to others. For instance, can we be free unless we allow freedom in others? Also, we need to be aware of the ways that self deception and ignorance about our own motivations can be enslaving. The ability to change ourselves begins in self knowledge and this is often a most painful and difficult quest. And mere knowledge of oneself might not by itself be enough to free ourselves form inner "demons." As psychoanalysts have discovered, the way to freedom is often an long arduous road. (See John Fowles, The Magus.)


VII. EXAMPLES OF FREEDOM AND NON-FREEDOMS. (Based on examples of W,T, Stace)

 The following cases are an attempt to both show how we use the term A . free@ in ordinary language, and it is indirectly a defense of the compatibilist/soft determinist theory of freedom. Case I A and B and Case II A and B1 are reasonably non-controversial (except for a hard determinist). Case B2 is a difficult one even if one accepts compatibilism. Case III is an attempt to show the absurdity of the hard determinist position. The hard determinist thinks that there are some deep metaphysical or scientific truths about the universe which make the belief in freedom a myth and a delusion. The compatibilist/soft determinist thinks that there we can begin with perfectly ordinary situations in which we are (or are not) free and then use our understandings about coercion compulsions, restraints etc. to solve the Ahard cases.@


 Joe: I once went without food for a week.

Suzy: Did you do it of your own free will?

Joe: No, I did it because I was in the BWCA and the bears ate my food.


Tubby: I once fasted for a week.

Suzy: Did you do that of your own free will?

Tubby: Yes, I did it because I wanted to make my weight class for wrestling.



Judge: Did you steal the bread of your own free will?

Evans: Yes, I stole it because I was hungry.


 CASE II B1 and B2

B1 Judge: Did you steal the bracelet of your own free will?

Evans: No, my gang threatened to kill me if I didn't steal it.

 Case B2 Judge: Did you join the gang of your own free will? (Trying to establish foreknowledge of consequences.)

Evans: I didn't choose to join the gang; all the kids from my neighborhood were automatically in the gang -it was just the thing to do. (Things like peer pressure, invisible persuaders, psychological ascendancy, dependancy relationships etc give every theory some problem. Often we need more detail in order to determine responsibility and degree of freedom.) Question: Is this sufficient to relieve Evans of the consequences of joing the gang and of the stolent bracelet? If you think the answer is "He is obviously responsible" ask yourself if you freely chose your religious beliefs or of your desire to get an education.



Judge: Did you sign the confession of your own free will?

Evans: No, I signed it because the police beat me.

My attorney (to jury): My client signed the confession because the police beat him and not of his own free will.

Hard Determinist Juror: That is quite irrelevant; there is no such thing as free will.

Foreman in astonishment: You mean to say that it makes no difference whether he signed because his conscience made him want to tell the truth or because he was beaten?

Hard Det: None at all. Whether his action was caused by his own desire to tell the truth or whether he signed because of the beating, it was casually determined and therefore in neither case did he act of his own free will.

 Doesn't this show that there is something very peculiar about the notion of freedom that the hard determinist (and the indeterminist, who uses the same core definition) is using?

  VIII. Conceptions of Freedom: The central notion for compatibilists\soft determinists.

 "Take these chains from my heart and set me free." Hank Williams

 1. From: The Preface to Freedom in the Ancient World by H.J. Muller.

 "The subject of this work is freedom in the broadest sense of the word. I am adhering to the relatively neutral and objective definition ... `the condition of being able to choose and to carry out purposes.' This involves the primary dictionary meaning, the absence of external constraint, or the common idea of freedom from coercion. It also includes the idea of practicable purposes, an actual ability with available means, or effective freedom to do what one wishes." Notice that this definition by an historia is the one that the compatibilists' favor

 2. From: Social Philosophy by Joel Feinberg

 "...the word `free,' without further specification, is often incompletely informative...To make such sentences more informative, we may have to add specifications of what someone is free from, or is free to do, or more precisely who it is whose freedom is at issue.

 The full version of conceptually elliptical statements about freedom will normally take the form indicated in the following schema:

 ___________ is free from ____________ to do (or omit, or be, or have)____________."

 3. Based on Feinberg, Evans' version: A free act is one which is: 1) not compelled, not coerced, not restrained, not forced; 2) a free act done on the basis of one's own (rational and conscious?) wants, desires or purposes; and, with some reservations 3) some ability to change one's want and desires (character) if one wants to.

 IX. Three strategies for analysis: Useful for analyzing many abstract terms.

 1. Instead of thinking about freedom, think of its opposite - a total lack of freedom. A clear description of the absence of those conditions making the person unfree will give at least a partial notion of freedom. Thus, imagine the clearest and most unambiguous example or case of a person not being free. Is there any plausible way in which the person could still be said to be free in some respect? Get someone else's point of view, then modify the example.

 2. Instead of just concentrating on the noun form of a puzzling term (e.g., freedom) it is sometimes easier to analyze the term when used as an adjective, verb or adverb.

 a) (Adjective) It may be easier to describe a free act than "freedom in the abstract.

b) (Verb) He freed the alligator from the Duluth Zoo.

c) (Adverb) She went freely (voluntarily) to the detox center.

3) Think through why people value freedom. What do they want?

3/5/96 Revised 11/2005