What is determinism?
Most people agree that people are morally responsible only for the actions they carry out freely and deliberately. Determinism states that there are laws of nature which govern everything which happens, every choice we make was determined by the situation before it and so implies infinite regress.
Freedom of choice is just an illusion and so personal responsibility is meaningless, as are blame and punishment. This makes it difficult to make any sense of the idea that people are to be held morally and legally responsible only for actions carried out freely and deliberately. However we do feel a sense of responsibility for what we have done even if we didn’t chose that action.
Philosophers have traditionally responded to this problem in different ways:
Hard Determinism – Accept determinism and reject freedom and moral responsibility.
Libertarians – Reject determinism and accept freedom and moral responsibility.
Soft determinism or compatibilists- Reject the two previous views that free will and determinism are incompatible and argue that freedom is not only compatible with determinism, but actually require it.
Determinism states that everything in his universe has a cause including all human actions and choices. This view has a history and may be seen in the fatalism of Greek tragedy, in which people are helpless victims of circumstances, necessity and The Fates.
Luther vs Catholics on Determinism
Catholic View – Erasmus (Libertarianism) - God gave people freewill and judges us accordingly
Martin Luther – (Determinism) – Disagreed with the Catholic view tat good works lead to heaven. He said this leads to arrogance, which is a sin.
The only way to heaven is to accept God and basically surrender to him.
Two young men in the 20’s Chicago killed a teenager for the intellectual thrill. Lawyer Clarence Darrow avoided the death penalty for them by claiming that they did not have complete free will. They were a product of their upbringing; the books they read, the way there brought up, influence they had on each other.
Swartz – Criticism
If an action is caused, it was not chosen freely = no moral responsibility. If an action is caused, no one has done it deliberately= no moral responsibility.
We are associated to a certain extent by the world that we live in – laws of nature and also of our society, experience etc.
Locke – “tabularasa” – When we are born we are a “blank state” which then gets filled by our experiences. We then make decisions within the constraints of those experiences.
Hume – Causal link between things – “constant which of objects”. These are predetermined we can’t control them.
Criticism – If human actions are determined in any way, then free will is an illusion. If you are part of a chain of events, you don’t have to a choice in this and can’t break free – so how is this free will?
Determinism can also be seen in some versions of the Christian predestination. The total irrelevance of our actions in this life as God has already decided if we are saved or not. The Doctrine of predestination was formed by theologians such as John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo. It is based on the idea that God determines whatever happens in history, also that man has a very limited understanding of God.
This is not based on anything found within the Bible, but ideas on revelation, and sits by side with teachings about individual freedom and responsibility. According to Augustine, people need the help of God’s grace to do well, and this is a gift from God.
Many Christians believe such as Pelagius, rejected any deterministic ideas, but determinism was formed more precisely by John Calvin. This belief says that as man is a complete sinner who is incapable of coming to God, and has a sinful freewill that s only capable of coming to God, then predestination must occur or nobody could be saved.
God is in total control and people cannot do anything