Free Will in Hard Determinism, Soft Determinism and Libertarianism

The questions of free will were always agitating the minds of philosophers. This could be explained by people’s tendency to acknowledge the responsibility of one’s actions. The questions that might arise ask whether there were other options in doing certain options or it was already predetermined. As a purpose of clarifying the different movements explaining free will, this paper compares hard determinism, soft determinism and libertarianism, stating that it is the closest to explaining free will.

In describing hard determinism it could be said that the followers of such course eliminate free will as a factor in making decisions. Hard determinism is a theory that explains the process of making a decision as following a predetermined path caused by the past. Hard determinists explain this theory by pointing to causality, stating that every action or decision has a cause that happens prior to the effect. If following such a theory which has a valid explanation in pointing to causality, as long as certain events in the past already happened, the decision was already triggered in the past and there is no free will to choose another option. This theory is not supported much as usually “philosophers are defenders of free will and personal responsibility and prefer to reject the arguments for hard determinism” (Rauhut, p. 93). The opposite of determinism is hard determinism, which is the acknowledgment that actions are based more on random events.

Soft determinism accepts the concept of causality of hard determinism combining it with free will, which is why it is sometimes called compatibilism. Based on the definitions of the causes that are compatible with free will, two different versions of soft determinism exist. Traditional compatibilism defines the cause compatible with free will as an action that is caused by the will and is not forced. Deep self-compatibilism differs from traditional compatibilism in that “it holds that our will is genuinely free only if we act on desires that we have chosen and that we identify with.” (Rauhut 101) As both hard and soft determinism are based on prior causes, they nevertheless are incompatible with free will. The argument for such incompatibility can be represented as” if determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us”(Rauhut and Smith).

This leads to another theory which is the theory of libertarianism. Taking determinism and indeterminism as two radical opposites, libertarianism is a theory that almost lies between the two. This theory accepts that everything has its cause. However, the difference is that humans are agents that can cause actions, and at the same time they were not caused to make these actions. Such analysis eliminates the effect of the past on implementing free will. This fact can make this theory the closest to explaining free will, but at the same time leaves some answers unsolved in the case of total disconnection from the past and the origin of the ability to cause and not be caused.

It can be seen that among these three theories, libertarianism although having some critique comes close to pointing out the role of free will. The advantage of libertarianism is in his acknowledgment of causality, and at the same time, this causality did not affect in making the decision. Nevertheless, this issue will have many considerations as it cannot answer all the questions.

Works Cited

  1. Rauhut, Nils Ch. Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy. New York: Pearson, 2007.
  2. Rauhut, Nils CH., and Renee Smith. Readings on the Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Pearson, 2007.

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