Determinism And Free Will


Determinism And Free Will Essay, Research Paper

Is All Human Behavior Determined by the Laws of Physics?

I began the discussion by taking the determinist point of view and stated that human behavior can be determined by the laws of nature if we have access to all relevant variables. If we were to know someone’s genetic make-up, the environment in which they are raised, the family they are raised by, etc., we can make valid conjectures about their behavior. For instance, if we know that a child has a very active limbic system (which is associated with emotion and aggression), is raised in a very poor and stressful environment and does not receive much affection from the parents, it is valid to project that such a child will behave violently and criminally in its adolescent and adult life. In fact, such psychological/social analysis are used to predict the statistics necessary in projecting crime rates and such around the country, or for that matter, world.

Nelly disagreed and stated that she believed human behavior was a matter of free will and free choice. She argued that if human behavior did not operate on the notion of free will, then no one can be justifiably held responsible for their actions. However, those behaviors which can be directly linked to instinctual survival, such as eating when hungry, drinking when thirsty, etc., is in fact controlled by nature. With all other behavior, she could not fathom how in any circumstance, we could only carry out but one event given the relevant variables of the situation.

I proposed that perhaps it does not hold so strictly that under given circumstances we could only carry out but one action. Maybe our genetics and environment only bind us to a certain number of possibilities of actions that we can carry out. For example, our parents raise us in a certain environment and therefore we are exposed to a population of people from which we can choose our friends. From these friends, we would be exposed to, say, a certain style of music. Therefore, if we were to walk into a music shop, knowing our taste and circle of friends, one can predict what CD we would buy. It would not be probable, for example, for someone raised in the city and exposed to rap to stroll into a store and pick up the latest polka hits. His choices, subconsciously, would be limited only to a certain number of records and therefore, the action of choosing is also limited.

Nelly argued that this would imply limited free will and that there cannot be such a thing. She argued that I am taking the side of compatibalism which states that scientific determinism is compatible with free will and that according to this theory, free choice is one that is not compelled internally or externally. According to my theory of environment limiting one’s choices, this would imply that we are conditioned to perform certain ways. Therefore, we are compelled internally by our conditioning and so my argument is against any sort of free choice as if we are merely robots.

I argued that conditioning does not compel anyone internally. We are raised to follow certain protocols and etiquette but we are not powerless to break them. I used the example of eating with a fork at that time. All of us in the US are raised to eat with forks but at some time or another, we have resorted to fingers or other substitutes, even if a fork was readily present. A better example, which came to mind after we moved on, is church. If conditioning truly meant compelling, how many people would still be going to church? As children, many of us are taught to attend service and are taken to service. However, there comes a time when many people just stop. If they were compelled internally to go, this would be unheard of.

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