Determinists vs Libertarians

20.03.2015 |

Episode #9 of the course “Philosophical ideas that everyone should know”

As awesome as it is to believe in free will, doing so presents a problem. Humans need to balance a supposed free spirit with the ideas suggested by science. The idea of determinism states that every situation in the world is caused by something else, which, in turn was caused by some catalyst that came before that. But if some previous event determines all of our actions and choices, how is free will possibly true? Further, are we even responsible for our actions? Determinism challenges the idea of acting unfettered and existing as moral beings. This approach elicits strong philosophical responses, and the following stand out among them.

Experts in the field maintain determinism as true and see free will as an illusion. That is, each happening has a cause, and we could not have acted differently. Therefore, punishment and praise for actions is not correct. Still other determinists accept determinism while incorporating free will. They believe that it is possible to act differently despite previous causal events. This idea gives soft determinists a sufficient understanding of freedom of action. They believe that cause determination is not necessary, only that one is not coerced in exercising choice. This kind of decision is subject to regular moral judgment.

Libertarians support determinism as conflicting with free will, and consequently reject determinism. However, they also dismiss the assertion of soft determinists, which explains that we could have acted differently if we had a choice. Libertarians also see this as causally determined. As such, libertarians believe in free will and not in the predetermination of action. Libertarians still need to explain how an action happens indeterminately—mainly how an uncaused event can avoid being random because randomness and determinism are equally problematic. Skeptics suspect that a “belief black hole” is central to libertarianism and that libertarians leave this idea to the unknown, where other views present at least some theory.


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