The claim that human beings are not really free to make moral choices

Whether or not humans are free to make moral decision or have ‘free will’ is one that has produced much controversy over the many years it has been debated. There are 3 main stances to this argument, those being ‘Hard’ Determinism, ‘Weak’ Determinism and Libertarianism, all of which will be discussed in the following essay.

Strict determinists, such as Baron Holbach, perceive the idea of free will as an illusion due to the determined outcomes that could be predicted by the right knowledge of the causes that affect us however Libertarians such as Roderick Chisholm perceive our freedom as requiring a self, which intervenes in our decision-making. Many people like to think that humans do infact have free will, simply because of the implications that not having it will produce.

For example, if it is clear that we are not free or able to make moral choices, immoral acts, such as rape murder etc. re able to go unpunished, which consequently would make the world in which we live an incredibly unsafe place. In my opinion I believe in the weak determinism theory that suggests some things of what we do is predetermined but we still do make choices. This is because a lot of what we do is determined on our up bringing our phenotype etc which produces a limited choice, but still a choice nonetheless. Hard Determinism is the belief that a determinate set of conditions can only produce one possible outcome given fixed laws of nature. It holds that every event, everything that happens or occurs, has a cause (universal causation).

The strongest version of determinism is that very action we do is determined by our genetics and out preceding environmental states and laws of psychology. One problem with this however is that fact that psychology hasn’t discovered many strict laws, it has made some ‘rules of thumb’ however that help us understand people and statistical laws, but no strict laws. For example we can say if someone is thirsty they will try to find a drink, but this is not always true, they may be fasting for example, there is no way of listing all the possible outcomes meaning that there is not just one possible outcome, even with something as basic as thirst.

Another issue is that genes do not, on their own determine a unique effect, they only ever have an effect through interaction with the environment, for example, someone may have a gene for being tall, but how tall they become depends on their diet. Lastly, the same could be said about our upbringing, just because we are brought up to behave in one way it doesn’t mean that we always will.

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