Title: What are the arguments against free will?
Word count: 600
Writing time: 25 minutes
** Written entirely with AI (100% plagiarism-free) using www.quil.ai
A: What is free will?
In philosophy, the problem of free will is the question of whether or not rational agents exercise control over their own actions and decisions - free from constraints. There is substantial philosophical literature on free will. The topic is arguably the most important in the philosophy of action.
The notion of free will is one of the defining features of humanity. Intuitively, as humans, we feel that we make our own decisions. We act freely. We are not constrained in our thoughts. Unlike computers, we do not think deterministically. However, as this essay will demonstrate, there are compelling arguments to be made against free will. These are based on the concept of determinism. This takes many forms - classical determinism, genetic or biological determinism and environmental determinism. If these notions are true, the concept of free will would be impossible.
B: What is the main argument against free will?
Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinists argue that free will is incompatible with the determinism. Since determinism is central to modern science, the notion of free will is unscientific. Therefore, free will cannot exist.
Specifically, determinism is aligned with the key principles of Newtonian mechanics (e.g. Newton’s Laws of Motion). These are differential equations that describe how objects change their motion. Given the positions and the velocities of all particles in the universe at a given time, you can calculate the position and velocity of those particles at any other time. This core concept of Newtonian mechanics suggests that the universe acts deterministically. Since our minds are part of this physical universe, they too must act deterministically. Because of this causality, it is impossible for the idea of free will to exist. If it did exist, this would suggest that human cognition somehow does not conform to the laws of physics.
There are two other variants of determinism. These are the argument from genetic determinism and the argument from environmental determinism.
Genetic determinism is the view that genes determine human behavior. It is a form of biological determinism. It posits that all biological, physical or psychological features of an organism are determined by its genetic code, and that one 's fate, or "fortune", is therefore determined in advance, perhaps not by pure fate, but by factors beyond one 's control. As such, it rejects the notion of free will.
A related argument against free will is that of environmental determinism. Environmental determinism is a school of thought in the social sciences that seeks to explain social phenomena in terms of the influence of the physical environment. It is also known as “Behaviouralism”. Behaviorists believe that while certain basic features of our bodies have a genetic basis (e.g. our species, eye color, etc.) our personalities, talents and shortcomings, virtues and vices, and so on, are the result of our external surroundings. As such, they believe that our decisions are the result of pre-conditioning.
However, while determinism is core to Newtonian mechanics, more recent scientific research suggests that the Universe may not act deterministically after all. Specifically, the uncertainty principle states that there is a limit to the accuracy of any physical measurement.
It turns out that, in general, it is impossible to know exactly how all the particles move, so we are limited to using a "correspondence principle" and calculating how the average properties of a system evolve over time.