Three Positions Of Free Will And Determinism Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Freedom, Free Will, Nature, Actions, Law, Democracy, Morality, Choice

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/18

The debate whether we really have free will or not is still an open book until now. With each side consequently discovering more natural laws to support their respective claims, it seems hard to fathom what claim weighs more and which of them demonstrates the bigger picture. The question if a person who committed a crime is morally responsible of his own action remains a divided resolution between the determinists and libertarians – the actors of the said long-standing topic bearing the question, “Do we really have free will?”. But for me, all of these claims should be accepted as one rather support them individually. I believe that these claims are vital to get the bigger picture whether a man has free agency.
As I have studied in our readings, there are three sides by which we can classify our stance towards the issue of free will: hard determinism, soft determinism, and libertarianism. Fundamentally, Determinists believe that actions of man are governed by natural laws, that their actions are controlled by a greater desire that leads them to do it. Soft determinists technically differ from the Hard ones by believing that a person can be morally responsible by his actions because some of it are governed by an individual choice. While on the other hand, libertarians believe that all actions of man are governed by his choices regardless of his upbringing, cultural influence, socio-economic factors, and the like, supporting the claim that a person indeed has Free Will.
According to D’Holbach (2001), a man can only be a free agent if he would be greater than the nature and that as if he would be able to refuse the influence of nature, take for example hunger and thirst. Not only that, in order for a man to be free agent or to have free will, he must be able to fully control the faculty of his emotions or his physical sensibility. This is saying that the sense of pleasure or pain should also be governed by choice and not the influence of nature or the things that push him to feel such. As I see it in this argument, Determinists have a clear point on this if we are talking about the free will of man based on irrefutable laws of nature, like saying that man cannot carry the moon or govern where it should set or rise, because well, that is impossible on so many levels. To add, D’Holbach said that the man’s sense of right and wrong should not be regarded as his ability to become morally responsible, because man, governed by natural laws, will just follow his stronger desire and not because he is totally aware of it. This is where we take note the side of the Soft Determinists. The Soft Determinists, while not debunking the fundamental rule of Determinism, believes that man can be morally responsible and that he holds his own Moral Freedom, reflecting a middle ground between Determinism and Libertarianism. Soft Determinists also believe that man’s actions are not only governed by natural laws but also his own decisions to make it which can also be influenced by the current culture he was honed in and the socio-economic factors that define his class. While on the extreme side, Libertarians believe that all of man’s actions are governed by his choices, regardless of all the factors that surround him.
Now we see the points where these sides agree and do not agree. We can obviously conclude that these claims somehow package Free Will in a way they wanted to conceive it, supporting their claims afterwards. But for us, what does Free Will really mean? Is it the total government of our mental thoughts, physiological faculty, and moral freedom or it merely our power to make a choice spontaneously over the things we can control? Well for me, the answer is both.
We tend to define Free Will in a way that we like to define it. Proponents of claims package Free Will in a tangible manner to suit their claims. But for me, Free Will should first be clearly defined. Based on our readings, we have two mindsets of freedom, that defined by Soft Determinists and that defined by the Libertarians. The freedom defined by the Soft Determinists is that if man made his choice without any coercion or compulsion, he in this sense has free will and that he is morally responsible on it. While on the other hand, the contra-causal freedom the Libertarian define is that man’s choices are always self-caused or free of any influence, coining the term contra-causal freedom.
In this regard, as we have examined the fundamentals of these claims, I can conclude that a single claim cannot totally debunk another. While we will most agree that physiological phenomena like sense of hunger, thirst, fear, and the like can be at a certain point be completely uncontrollable, man can also make a choice not to eat, not to drink, and harness courage to overcome fear – like being able to normally cross a hanging bridge situated on a high cliff after doing it a hundred times.
According to Campbell (1957) those “inner acts” can be categorized in order to support the claim that man has free will, because these are decisions he makes out not be natural laws or fervent desires but because it is his choice. It is also debatable to fully agree to the Hard Determinists that all of our actions can absolutely be defined by natural laws, making all human beings nothing less but machines operated by laws. Thus, I believe that Soft Determinism is the closest remedy to our dilemma concerning the existence of Free Will.
First, in my opinion, man has Free Will, not freedom to define things which are already defined by nature like our inevitable case to become hungry and thirsty or to release hormones that signify our desire towards someone or even to conclude that we do not need the sun to live. It is freedom to make a choice that defines our morality, our character, and our individual choices. I will support the claim of the Soft Determinists that man can be held morally accountable because you cannot say that all people will choose to be a criminal, supporting the claim that our actions are not only defined by natural laws but also by our upbringing and inherent culture. To debunk the Libertarians is to say that not all our actions are random. It sprouts from a structure of societal and cultural drama that leads us to do what fits us. It is like saying that a man who woke up in this world in a wealthy family has a choice if he will demonstrate greed to earn more or philanthropy to give more. I cannot also totally agree to what Hard Determinists say that all our actions are brought about the stronger desire by which we weigh our decision. Take for example our decision not to eat, yes the stronger desire pushes us to eat and it is a mental struggle not to. But caused by the factors outside man, like scarcity of resources, will to save money, and the like, cause him to act otherwise, overcoming that stronger desire. Moral freedom is also feasible. While we say that a man may have killed someone out of anger and resentment, he may opt not to because he has the will to choose from right and wrong. Now it is also important to take note that not all our actions have causes because it can be totally spontaneous and random, supporting a claim of the libertarians which we can also deduce to a result of impulse formulated by the mind which was sent to our body supporting the claim of the determinists.
Reiterating my stance earlier, to fully grasp the definitions of freedom where we would like to conceive it, it is highly vital to see the common point of both the extreme sides, for as individual, it cannot absolutely define the decisions of man. Thus for me, Soft Determinism is a resolution by which we support the irrefutable effect of natural laws but also regarding man’s capacity of refusal, of critical thinking, and ultimately of Free Will. If one will ask if we have Free Will, it is necessary to first examine the lens he is using while asking you, because as I have said, claims define Free Will by which it fits them. Ultimately, it is very hard to debunk that we do not have Free Will for I believe that we are not machines that natural laws can absolutely define.


Campbell, C. A (1957). Has the self ‘free will’?. On selfhood and godhood. Retrieved from
D’Holbach, B. (2001). Chapter XI: Of the system of Man’s Free Agency. The system of nature. Retrieved from
Edwards, P. (1992). Hard and soft determinism. In Argument and analysis: An introduction philosophy, ed. Martin Curd, 367-371. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.
Goldman, A. I. (1968). Actions, predictions, and books of life. American Philosophical Quarterly 5: 135–151.
Hume, D. (1910). Of liberty and necessity, Section VIII. An enquiry concerning human understanding. Retrieved from
Nagel, T, (1979). Moral luck. In Mortal questions, 24-38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rowe, W.L. (1987). Two concepts of freedom. In Proceedings and addresses of the American Philosophical Association 61: 43-64.

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