Determinism Essay, Research Paper

We ought then regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its previous state and the

cause of the one which is to follow. An intelligence knowing at a given instant of time all the

forces operating in nature, as well as the position at that instant of all things of which the

universe consists, would be able to comprehend the motions of the largest bodies in the universe

and those of the smallest atoms in a single formula – provided that it was sufficiently powerful to

submit all these data analysis. To it nothing would be uncertain and the future would be present

to its eyes as much as the past.

This passage comes from P.S. de Laplace?s ?Philosophical Essay on Probabilities.? If such

determinism is true, then everyone?s every thought and action must be inevitable; that no

one really has any choice about anything, because we are all helpless products of blind

forces which have made us what we are. In this paper concerning the free will and

determinism debate I will argue that determinism is not plausible, I shall do this by giving

reasons for determining how determinism is false, give arguments for determinism, and

then refute those arguments.

There are those who think that our behavior is a result of free choice, but there are

others who presume ?we are servants of cosmic destiny or that behavior is nothing but a

reflex of heredity and environment.? The position of determinism is that every event is

the necessary outcome of a cause or set of causes. That everything is a consequence of

external forces, and such forces produce all that happens. Man is not free. If we accept

the determinist argument and assume human behavior as a consequence of external factors

rather than of free choice, then we must realize that our explanation of human behavior

leaves no room for morality. If people do not choose their actions, then they are not really

responsible for them, and there is no need for praising or blaming them. If determinism

were true, then there would be no basis for human effort, for why should a person make

an effort if what he or she does doesn?t make a difference? If what will be will be, then

one has an excuse for doing nothing. Life would not be so meaningful for people on

deterministic grounds. ?The nature of human life may be such that man must understand

himself as being free, for human life as we know it would not make much sense without

the concept of freedom.? The challenge and struggle usually emerge from situations,

such as helping to recycle or reaching out to youths in inner city projects, in which

individuals feel that their effort can make a difference.

In our everyday lives, there are many times when we have to make decisions; what

we are going to eat for breakfast, or where we are going to walk. When we talk or write,

we are deciding on the arrangement of our thoughts, and we have to search for the right

expressions. Our life, while we are awake and active, is a mixture of important and

unimportant choices. Having free will means that we are able to act voluntarily, that we

could have decided to act differently than we did. When someone is criticized for looking

sloppy, or making an offensive remark, he may try to excuse himself with a ?I could not

help it? remark. But if he is a normal person mentally, then he could have helped it; he

could have acted differently. ?The great American pragmatist William James in his famous

essay ?The Dilemma of Determinism,? James rejects determinism on the grounds that there

is no free choice. James appealed to direct experience to provide evidence of the

existence of free choice.? Feelings which we all have such as regret or remorse makes no

sense unless there is free will. People experience regret or sorrow only because they

believe they could have done otherwise. If determinism were true, then people could

never have done otherwise and there should be no reason to feel any regret.

A determinist may argue that human behavior is caused by environment conditions,

general trends, circumstances, and social economic forces beyond human effort and will.

?Freudians have shown that men do things not because of free choice but because of deep

unconscious forces and libidinal energy or sexual drives. Darwin described man as a product of

evolution, as any animal is; Marx showed how man is shaped by economic forces over which he

has no control; and behaviorist psychologist explained human behavior of evidence in favor of

deterministic thesis.?

Determinist believes that people believe they are free only because they?re ignorant of the

causes of their actions. Spinoza makes that point when he says, ?Men are deceived in

thinking themselves free, a belief that consists of the causes by which they are

determined.? He continues: ?In the mind there is no absolute, or free will. The mind is

determined to this or that volition by a cause, which is likewise determined by another

cause, ad infinitum.? All of his philosophy reflected the deterministic view that we are

not free to change the world because we are all part of a grand causal chain, but his

philosophy also claims the idea that if we accept determinism we free ourselves from

ignorance and emotional servitude. If a person has the capacity to free himself from the

bondage of ignorance and emotional impulses and come to agree with Spinoza, then this

would seem to be a very significant type of freedom. So it can be concluded that Spinoza

was saying something absurd or that he understood the reality and value of freedom.

Human experience over the course of history does rely itself on freedom.

If determinism is true, why should people bother deliberating about what to do or

deciding and choose seriously? If determinism is true, then whatever is determined to

happen by the past history of the universe is going to happen. A person?s biography was

written before he or she was born, so there?s no sense in making an effort. Whatever will

be will be, whatever the person do or don?t do. So then why even bother getting out of




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