Free Will vs Determinism
For a very very long time Philosophy has been asking a question,
“Is there any free will? If not, then should we be held responsible for our actions?”
Determinists believe that everything a man does is determined by his past experiences & environmental factors. While those believing in free will dictate that man has always the power to choose between different possible courses of action.
In this essay, I will discuss both sides of the coin and in the end an attempt shall be made to define free will properly.
Let’s consider the problem of accident.
Suppose you are driving a car, abiding by every possible law yet still you get injured by crashing into a car whose driver was driving furiously. If you did every possible good in your freedom of will then why should you suffer ill consequences?
It happened as your free will intersected with that of driver’s. All of us are born with the equal luxury of free will, if we were not, it would have been unjust. Therefore when our free wills intersect, unfortunate accidents happen. That is precisely why they are called ‘accidents’. And the person responsible for the origin of intersection should be held responsible for the consequences.
Then comes the matter of the effects of environment upon the desires and decisions of man.
It is true, and no one can deny it, that our surroundings have a profound effect upon our decisions.
If a person was born to a con man and all his life he was trained as a con man, why should he choose any other profession? Similarly, a kid is born in a family of Policemen and he is told, every now and then, the merits of Police, therefore he is unlikely to choose any other profession.
Complications arise when the con man is held responsible and punished for his crimes.
A famous psychologist once claimed that if he were given a bunch of newly born babies, he could make them enter any profession whatsoever; their upbringing would be designed so.
Free will seems to vanish in these cases.
I have been searching for the answers to these problems for a long time and have asked for the opinions of many, but the only explanation that satisfies me, I write below.
As we all know that all of us are born with a set of qualities e.g. intelligence, imagination, etc. The best of these is curiosity (in my opinion). ‘A strong desire to know & learn’. If our con man had used his curiosity to learn that he was on the wrong path, he would not have had to suffer the consequences. Along with curiosity, critical and moral thinking also play a major role in these cases, the ability for which, we all have as a built-in moral compass inside us.
Let us take a look at serial killers; it is a fact that most of them were abused in childhood, which they took seriously and turned to murder, to take their revenge from society. Now one would think that they had no other option, still they would be held responsible for their crimes. But it is also a fact that majority of people who were child sex victims fail to turn into criminals, instead some of them even turn into lawmen, to avenge. Then there is the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, who was brought up in a well fed family and was not abused at all, nevertheless he went on to become a cannibal and one of the most brutal murderers of all time.
As you can see, some of the victims had used low critical thinking and turned to take revenge from the society while the others preferred justice.
If their decisions were solely defined by environmental factors and past experiences (which were same) how could they be different? I would say they chose what to be, it was in their freedom of will.
Now their is a lot left to discuss butIi do not believe an essay would cover all that, therefore I close this chapter with a possible explanation of free will.
“The ability of a man to choose between possible courses of action, which he does by analyzing the data he has acquired throughout his life is free will. Though the environmental factors heavily affect his decisions, still he is able to differentiate between wrong and right by thinking (morally and critically).”
Written by: Hanzilah Siddique