Our Free Will


We ought then regard the present state of the universe as the effect of
its previous state and the cause of the one which is to follow. An intelligence
knowing at a given instant of time all the forces operating in nature, as well
as the position at that instant of all things of which the universe consists,
would be able to comprehend the motions of the largest bodies in the universe
and those of the smallest atoms in a single formula - provided that it was
sufficiently powerful to submit all these data analysis. To it nothing would
be uncertain and the future would be present to its eyes as much as the past.
This passage comes from P.S. de Laplace\'s “Philosophical Essay on
Probabilities.” If such determinism is true, then everyone\'s every thought and
action must be inevitable; that no one really has any choice about anything,
because we are all helpless products of blind forces which have made us what we
are. In this paper concerning the free will and determinism debate I will
argue that determinism is not plausible, I shall do this by giving reasons for
determining how determinism is false, give arguments for determinism, and then
refute those arguments.
There are those who think that our behavior is a result of free choice,
but there are others who presume “we are servants of cosmic destiny or that
behavior is nothing but a reflex of heredity and environment.” The position
of determinism is that every event is the necessary outcome of a cause or set
of causes. That everything is a consequence of external forces, and such
forces produce all that happens. Man is not free. If we accept the
determinist argument and assume human behavior as a consequence of external
factors rather than of free choice, then we must realize that our explanation
of human behavior leaves no room for morality. If people do not choose their
actions, then they are not really responsible for them, and there is no need
for praising or blaming them. If determinism were true, then there would be no
basis for human effort, for why should a person make an effort if what he or
she does doesn\'t make a difference? If what will be will be, then one has an
excuse for doing nothing. Life would not be so meaningful for people on
deterministic grounds. “The nature of human life may be such that man must
understand himself as being free, for human life as we know it would not make
much sense without the concept of freedom.” The challenge and struggle
usually emerge from situations, such as helping to recycle or reaching out to
youths in inner city projects, in which individuals feel that their effort can
make a difference.
In our everyday lives, there are many times when we have to make
decisions; what we are going to eat for breakfast, or where we are going to
walk. When we talk or write, we are deciding on the arrangement of our
thoughts, and we have to search for the right expressions. Our life, while we
are awake and active, is a mixture of important and unimportant choices.
Having free will means that we are able to act voluntarily, that we could have
decided to act differently than we did. When someone is criticized for looking
sloppy, or making an offensive remark, he may try to excuse himself with a “I
could not help it” remark. But if he is a normal person mentally, then he
could have helped it; he could have acted differently. “The great American
pragmatist William James in his famous essay ‘The Dilemma of Determinism,\'
James rejects determinism on the grounds that there is no free choice. James
appealed to direct experience to provide evidence of the existence of free
choice.” Feelings which we all have such as regret or remorse makes no sense
unless there is free will. People experience regret or sorrow only because they
believe they could have done otherwise. If determinism were true, then people
could never have done otherwise and there should be no reason to feel any
regret.
A determinist may argue that human behavior is caused by environment
conditions, general trends, circumstances, and social economic forces beyond
human effort and will.

“Freudians have shown that men do things not because of free choice but because
of deep unconscious forces and libidinal energy or sexual drives. Darwin
described man as a product of evolution, as any animal is; Marx showed how man
is shaped by economic forces over which he has no control;