English: Free will and Soft Determinism Essay

Submitted By niamhtaylor
Words: 1390
Pages: 6

‘If no one is free then no one is morally responsible’
The idea of soft determinism entails the fact our actions are to some extent controlled by external forces but we are still held accountable for our choices. I agree with this and believe that we are not free and that our actions are pre-determined by the mechanistic world we live in where everything has a purpose; every small action has an equal sized reaction, which, I believe we are morally responsible for.
Soft determinism I had mentioned earlier is also referred to compatibilism as there are 2 opposite ideas that exist together. The first is the idea that human beings are able to exercise total free will which is known as libertarianism. The second is the idea that human beings are controlled by external forces which is known as hard determinism. The hard determinists believe that external forces control human beings, both divine and, or natural. These external forces make human beings like puppets or robots which entails that we are not free, we are controlled by some form of puppet master or designed by a divine designer to fulfil a purpose as a robot.
An example of hard determinism comes in the form of Charles Darrow who was a lawyer in America, his most famous case was that of the Loeb and Leopold boys who attempted to commit the perfect murder. The 2 boys who were disciples of Fredrik Nietzsche kidnapped and killed a 14 year old boy and were apprehended. Charles Darrow who was the defender of the 2 killers put forward a case that went down in history. He argued that it was not the boy’s fault that they had committed this murder; he said that the boys were pre-determined by their upbringing and interests to commit this crime. Darrow went on to blame the parents, the boy’s upbringing, their social environment, and Nietzsche. Darrow raised the issue of whether human beings are pre-determined by nature or nurture to act in a certain way. It also raises the point of whether morality can exist if human beings are pre-determined.
Hard determinism is also supported by Ted Honderich who believes that determinism comes to the same conclusion as Darrow but starts from a different premise. Honderich begins with the principles of physics as he believes that nothing happens without a reason, similar to Aristotle. The reason for everything is out of the control of human beings and events are already determined and anything a human being does is as a result of what has already happened. Because of this human beings can therefore not be responsible for their actions since what they do is simply part of a chain of events which has already been set in motion. Honderich recently adapted his view to include his studies that the physical world is not as straight forward and mechanistic as he sees it. He believes that through empirical evidence we can see people travel across the world through different cultures with different social standings and yet their values don’t change, which begs the question; whether determined events do actually cause any behavioural changes. Hard determinism is critiqued by Norman Swartz who points out that human beings cease having any responsibility for their actions because the actions are pre-determined by causes outside of the control of the individual.
Compatibilism or Soft determinism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism (in the same way that libertarians define 'free will' such that it cannot). They may understand free will to refer to something like liberty (e.g., a freedom to act according to one's determined motives). Compatibilists often define an instance of 'free will' as one in which the agent had freedom to act. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said…