Are Determinists Correct?
Many have wondered whether free will exists or not. Some argue yes, some argue no. For now, I will say no. I will begin my argument with a scenario. Say a man has an enemy that he hates very strongly. One day this guy makes a conscious decision to kill his enemy. He calculates every move he needs to make to kill his enemy and succeeds in doing so. Clearly, this man is guilty of murder. The question is, should blame fall on this man for killing another?
Currently, all societies in the world are built around some moral basis that holds a person responsible for their actions. A determinist, however, would disagree and say that people are not free, and therefore are not at fault for their actions. Human acts are caused, and caused acts are of only one option. If there is only one option and no choices, then there is no freedom involved. Therefore, the man from the example and every other criminal that ever existed are not actually guilty of their crimes. These people had no other choices. Does that mean we should let all of these guilty people out of jail to romp around?
Definitely not, because you could use induction to figure that they will commit more crimes if they are free. Furthermore, if they are not truly guilty because of lack of free will, then society is not at fault for imprisoning them because of their lack of free will.
The determinist believes that all actions done by a human can be predicted. If we were able to calculate all the variables that compose the brain and mind at any given time, we would be able to predict human acts. To clarify with a simple analogy, in order to bake a blueberry muffin it would take certain ingredients such as sugar, eggs, and blueberries etc. Now, a human act, much like the ingredients of a cake, takes certain variables for it to occur. When a person chooses to speed down the highway, he is not speeding just for the sake of speeding. There are certain variables, like baking a cake, which are accounted for such as being late, the rush it gives, or just because the wind feels good.
Whatever the case may be, the act is caused. In the eyes of a determinist, caused acts have only one option. If there is only one option, then there is no freedom. So, the question arises, are all acts caused? To answer this question we must first look at the human brain and mind. Historically, when we talk about human acts we seem to be able to predict why a human acted the way they did. For example, while watching something like Montel, the host attempts to reason why a person’s problem occurred. The audience then makes suggestions on how to remedy the situation. If the topic is about relationships, then the show leads to questions about relationships and why they occur. Just about every time a guest asks a question about an abusive boyfriend, the host asks what their family life was like. The overwhelming response is that people who enter into abusive relationships had abusive families. If we relate this back to the human brain and say an abusive family is a variable for an abusive boyfriend, we find that this act can be predicted.
The human mind/brain appears to be broken into two parts. The first we will call instinct. The human instinct consists of all things that are embedded in the human mind for survival, like the need to eat and sleep. Another example is little babies crying when they are hungry or wet their diaper. Survival instincts carry on throughout human life. When a person reaches maturity, they feel the need to reproduce. They will proceed to participate in various sexual activities to satisfy this desire. These acts are on an animal level.
The human brain promotes these acts by controlling hormones, the chemicals in our bodies that give us basic signals telling us what to do, such as eat, use the bathroom, and have intercourse. When a person eats, the brain rewards itself by releasing chemicals that make a person feel good.
The study of animals is constantly going on and is predictable to a great degree. After watching an hour of the discovery channel one might find out why birds fly north every year or why male elephants go rouge and destroy villages in a fit of rage. These acts are predictable.
The complexity of the human brain, which allows us to comprehend our surroundings and learn, is what makes us free, or does it? As a child develops, his brain is formed which then lays the groundwork for his animal instincts and at the same time gives him intelligence. Once he enters the world, his animal instincts guide him to survive. At the same time, he is learning. He takes all the input from his five senses and stores these variables in his brain. These actions continue until the day he dies, continually learning. Now when this child acts he will go back to his brain and use past knowledge to make decisions. This brain “database” is used for looking up similar situations and weighing options on how he should act. For instance, when a criminal chooses to commit a crime he weighs his options. If he gets away with the crime then he will somehow have bettered himself, but if he is caught then he will be in trouble. The need to better one’s self is an animal instinct, which is strong and predictable. However, with the use of intelligence humans are able to choose the best course of action by basing the choice from prior knowledge. With this in mind, the criminal decides to commit the crime because he sees no better way. His “database” does not give him any other options but to commit the crime, so he can achieve his goal. Does this mean he does not have free will? Perhaps not, but what if he chooses not to commit the crime. His “database” may be telling him that the crime will make him richer and therefore have a better life, but that does not mean he will choose to proceed with the crime. He might choose to be a good person instead because there are more important things than money.
There are many times when people have desires and feel strongly that they should do something, only to be stopped by discipline or perhaps a guilty conscience. Most would agree that discipline is definitely not a human instinct because it obviously interferes with basic human needs. An example of this would be someone who goes on a fast for religious purposes.
If a person has gained discipline or does prevent him or herself from doing evil because of a conscience, does that mean they are free? Perhaps psychologically, a person is only disciplined because it is a means towards survival. Does having a conscience mean you are free? If anything, it is just an influence on how one acts, and therefore is just another variable to be considered when trying to predict someone’s behavior. How do you explain someone who voluntarily suffers from fasting? Obviously, they are resisting the human desire to eat, but perhaps they are only being enslaved by a spiritual desire to fast because of the good mental feeling it produces.
It seems that no matter how you look at it, humans base their actions on desires. They do good acts because they desire to go to heaven. They take showers and wear nice clothes so that they can attract a mate. They might think they are making a choice when choosing to do these things, but perhaps they are only doing them because of the different variables acting in their minds.
One more thing to consider is where these variables come from. It would seem that they merely come from impulses in the human brain that have been caused by the environment, and even genetics. Now if these impulses are really just random impulses and do not have a basis in genetics or the environment, does that mean humans have free will? No, it just means that humans are at the mercy of randomness. Based on all this, it would seem that the determinists are right