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The Leading Theories of Free Will, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

Modern philosophical thinkers name three primary theories in particular when addressing the issue of free will in humans. The first, hard determinism, defines a definite reason for everything, while the second, named compatibilism molds determinism and the essence of free will together; the third, libertarianism, gives the person full moral responsibility for their choices regarding free will.

Free will with regards to philosophy is defined as an aware and conscious being’s ability to make an informed decision from a host of other decisions. There are some who interpret free will to be just that–individual, depending on the person, and difficult to define universally. In dealing with free will, it is absolutely necessary to first discuss hard determinism, and how these terms relate (O’Connor, 2010).

Hard determinism has a few basic components that clearly contrast with free will. This theory in philosophy implicitly states “no action is free if it must occur”, before explaining that everything that happens is a direct result of something else–essentially the cause and effect relationship. Therefore if an action must occur because it is cause by a previous action, taking human “free” will completely out of the picture (Lafave, 2006).

There are implications of using just hard determinism to determine actions. By nature the theory lends itself to allowing discrimination; without a moral compass, whomever a person turns out to be is a direct result on how they were born. This can also make an excuse for someone guilty of any kind of immoral act (Lafave, 2006).

There is a way to weave the theory of hard determinism with free will; another theory called compatablilism. Instead of arguing for one or the other, it instead assumes that because, as in hard determinism, an action is the basis of a reaction, a different initial action could also have been taken. Essentially it states that because everything has a cause and an effect, the effect is directly dependant on the cause (McKenna, 2009).

Compatablism is a merited way to make sense of free will when it comes to hard determinism as well as moral compass. There is another major theory of thought when free will is concerned: libertarianism. This theory is absolutely consistent with classical thought of the overall term “free will” in many ways.

Defined by the principles of self-ownership, libertarianism brings the moral compass back into view. It makes the actor always responsible for their own actions, rather than possibly making a biological excuse for such. In terms of justice, libertarianism addresses the issue in two different ways. The first way is through the moral obligation the individual owes to others as other people; the second is through inherent moral obligation–these two thoughts on justice naturally lend themselves for interpretation in many different ways, namely social or economic (Vallentyne, 2010).

It clearly makes sense that compatablism is closest to the truth about how society operates. Though hard determinism and libertarianism both have their benefits as far as policy possibility, it is true in today’s world that some people are inherently wired to act a certain way, but to a certain extent it is their choice as well.

Compatabilism uses both of these important principles, and therefore really is how society operates. A perfect example is psychotherapy–it is possible to teach someone that a different initial action will result in a more positive reaction.

Resources

Lafave, Sandra. “Free Will and Determinism.” Free Will and Determinism. N.p., 2006. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

McKenna, Michael. “Compatibilism.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

O’Connor, Timothy. “Free Will.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., 2010.  Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Vallentyne, Peter. “Libertarianism.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

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