Determinism (in The System of Nature, 1770)
A human being is a material (i.e., physical) thing.
All changes in material things are determined by immutable laws
(i.e., the laws of science.
All changes made by humans are determined by immutable laws.
To be free, an action must be independent of determining physical
No human action is independent of determining physical causes.
No human action is free.
The COMPLEXITY of the sources of our
actions make it impossible to say why we behave as we do in some
circumstances, and this inability to identify the causes of our actions
encourages the ILLUSION of free will.
G. E. Moore's attack on hard determinism
Moore's analysis: Hard determinism is the view that if a person does x, that person never could have done other than x in those circumstances.
For hard determinism to be correct, there must be NO meaning of "could" (or "can") according to which a person could/can do other than x when the person actually did x.
Since we CAN sometimes do other than x when we actually do x, hard determinism is wrong.
If hard determinism is wrong, then soft determinism is a legitimate option. Many human actions are simultaneously free and determined by context/circumstances
Here are three facts that show that hard determinism is wrong:
- Even when we see that x happened, we
know that a second thing, y, could NOT have happened, while a third,
z, could have. And this is often true of human behavior. (This ship is
going 15 knots but COULD go 20 knots, while this second is going 10
knots because it CANNOT go 15. Since we can distinguish between these
two cases, the hard determinist hypothesis is false.)
- In a certain situation, we see that a
person could have acted differently by choosing differently. The
person COULD HAVE ACTED differently, and would have if they had CHOSEN
differently. The action depends on the choice, so people do engage in
choosing. This fact
is important, because it is our basis for assigning moral responsibility
to other people.
- Finally, we sometimes "induce" a
particular choice, and thus we sometimes choose to make a choice. For
example, our futures are often INDETERMINATE.
Because we sometimes recognize that we cannot know, in advance, that we would
NOT choose something, we often make choices NOW to reduce the
likelihood of making those choices later. If I do NOT acknowledge that
I don't know in advance what I'll do, I am likely to make choices now
that will close off that option. (Example: If I can't imagine my
children graduating from college, I am not likely to care how they do in
elementary school, and thus may help to fulfill my own expectation that
they won't graduate from college.) Or, by reminding myself that I don't
know about such situations, I can make choices now that will keep
options open that will otherwise be lost options. In that case, I am
choosing to make the choice later.