Destiny and Fate Do you believe in destiny? What are you destined for?
Matrix Morpheus: Do you believe in fate, Neo? Neo: No.... I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.
Minority Report Do you have a choice? Are you bound by fate?
Fatalists The Greek Fatalists believed that life was a tragedy and were helpless victims of circumstance. Necessity and fate controls our destinies.
Moral Responsibility You are accountable for your actions. You can be praised for “good” actions and punished for “bad” actions. If there is no freedom, there can be no moral accountability. See Kant and Boethius
Differing View Points Hard Determinists Everything is determined. Libertarians Nothing is determined; we are free. Soft Determinists Some things are determined, but not reason.
Hard Determinism Hard Determinists Everything is determined.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.
John Hospers There are internal forces and external forces which give us the impression that we are acting with free will. Action: I read Pride and Prejudice. External Force - I have an exam on Pride and Prejudice. Internal Force - I saw Pride and Prejudice on TV. ‘It’s all a matter of luck’.
Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) Darrow’s defence of two men on trial for murder reduced their sentence from death to life. Punishment as punishment is not admissible unless the offender has the free will to select his course.
Clarrence Darrow (1857-1938) What has this boy to do with it? He was not his own father; he was not his own mother; he was not his own grandparents. All of this was handed to him. He did not surround himself with governesses and wealth. He did not make himself. And yet he is to be compelled to pay.
John B. Watson (1978-1958) Watson suggested that behaviour can be predicted and controlled. Psychological Behaviourism. If the universe is determined, all actions, ethical and otherwise, are controlled by prior causes which are in principle knowable. Nature and Nurture.
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) Conducted experiments with dogs and bells. Simple behaviour can be controlled by conditioning. Sophisticated behaviour is controlled by sophisticated conditioning.
B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) Worked on operant conditioning. This looked at behaviour in terms of psychological responses to external stimuli. The conclusions showed that our actions are conditioned and that we do not actually have freedom.
Isaac Newton Determinism is based in the Newtonian paradigm that the universe is governed by immutable laws of nature. Like a watch! If the universe is not mechanical, then the principles of cause and effect are indeterminable. This does not necessarily imply freedom.
John Locke (1632-1704) A man wakes up in a locked room. He decides to stay where he is, not realising that the door to the room is locked. The man thinks that he has made a free decision, but in reality he has no choice.
John Locke (1632-1704) The causes of our actions are so complex that it appears that we have freedom. In reality there is no freedom. It’s like the weather system; it appears random but it is in reality complex and determinable.
Paul-Henri Thiry (Baron) d’Holbach You say that I feel free. This is an illusion, which may be compared to that of the fly in the fable, who, upon the pole of a heavy carriage, applauded himself for directing its course. Man, who thinks himself free, is a fly who imagines he has the power to move the universe, while is himself unknowingly carried along by it.
Ted Honderich (1933-) If everything is determined, then the Empiricist conclusions is accurate: There is no self which is the origin of your actions. The mind is a by-product of brain activity cause by psych-neural events. There is no moral responsibility. There is no Freedom. There is no soul/afterlife.
Libertarianism Libertarians Nothing is determined; we are free.
In response to Darrow Blaming external forces for our actions is regret. We may not “make ourselves” but we do “ make our actions ”. Human decisions and choices cannot be proven to all be caused.
Peter Van Inwagen Life is a journey: Determinists claim that there are no branches on the road. There is only one set path for each person. Libertarians claim that there are and we make choices. It may seem as though we had not choices, we made decisions which brought us here.
Werner Heisenberg The Heisenberg uncertainty principle. We cannot know both the location and momentum of subatomic particles at the same time. We should appeal to probabilities rather than formulate general laws of certainty. The universe is in fact unpredictable and indeterminable.
Honderich’s criticism Heisenberg’s principle applies only to subatomic particles and cannot refute Newton’s mechanics. Quantum Mechanics qualifies Newton’s view and puts his theories into a broader context.
The Quantum contradiction Even if it were the case that the universe was indeterminable, the opposite of determinism would be randomness. If the universe is random, that does not prove that we have free will, only that our actions cannot be determined at all.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) Freedom is the goal and measure of our lives. From nothing, man makes himself what he chooses. It does not matter what a man does with his freedom, so long as he acts freely – freedom is an end in itself. To do otherwise is to conform to the will of others; this is to be guilty of mauvaise foi. “To be free is to be condemned to be free.”
Soft Determinism Soft Determinists Some things are determined, but not reason.
Steven Pinker Emotions have a biological (and evolutionary) basis. Man might be predisposed to violence, but reason controls that predisposition. A moral sense is innate in us and ‘as real for us as if it were decreed by the Almighty or written into the cosmos.’
Immanuel Kant Determinism applies to everything which is the object of knowledge, but not to acts of the will. There are two types of reason: Pure (theoretical) Reason Practical Reason
Kant’s Pure Reason This is how we perceive the world and how we explain it scientifically. Pure reason observes the determined universe and so must accept determinism to some degree.
Kant’s Practical Reason Practical reason concerns actions, the will and the way we see ourselves. Freedom is a postulate of practical reason. Our own self-awareness, without which the world would not make sense to us, forces on us the idea that we are free. We cannot abolish freedom without ceasing to see ourselves as the originator of our actions.
Not a compromise Compatibilitism is a position taken due to the need to have some accountability and responsibility for human behaviour. It is, as Kant puts it, a postulate of Practical Reason. We are self- aware thinking beings, we require freedom.
Voltaire, ’Dictionaire Philosophique’ ’Pear trees cannot bear bananas. The instincts of a spaniel cannot be the instincts of an ostrich. Everything is planned, connected, limited.’
Thomas Nagel, ’What does it all mean?’ ’The sum total of a person’s experiences, desires and knowledge, his hereditary constitution, the social circumstances and the nature of the choice facing him, together with other factors that we may not know about, all combine to make a particular action in the circumstances inevitable.’
Predestination The Christian idea that salvation and damnation are predetermined by God. This is not scriptural dogma, it is based on interpretation of revelation.
Augustine of Hippo It is not by our own merit that we achieve salvation but through the grace of God which is freely given. Note God’s intervention in the ministries of Moses and St Paul. This was contradicted by Pelagius and he was branded a heretic.
John Calvin (16 th Century) Man’s nature is ultimately sinful. It is only by God’s intervention – predetermined – that we can gain salvation. It is God who permits goodness and badness ; thus we cannot be punished or rewarded.
John Calvin (16 th Century) …Eternal life is fore- ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one of the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined to life or death. - Institutes of the Christian Religion Bk3 Ch21 s5