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Free Will and Determination
Various experts have differing views on whether the world is predetermined or whether people are the storytellers of their lives. When considering every specific situation, it is crucial to understand every event is an outcome of the previous events and so forth. Moreover, there cannot be any borderline conditions, such as the treatment of the forced events as the examples of the display of a free will since psychological factors are in their turn causal factors. When deciding whether a man should carry out responsibility for his activities, it is useful to view actions as occasions predestined to happen and only anticipate similar circumstances. Therefore, the universe is predetermined, and the concept of free will is an imaginary condition.
An important approach to keep in mind when thinking about determinism is to view it as a result of a certain sequence of past incidents which lead to the current outcomes. According to the author, in case determinism defined everything, all the episodes in people’s lives were predestined from the start point (163). Nagel suggests thinking over an example of the sun appearing and disappearing from the sky every day as compared to choosing a cake over a peach (162). If many people explained the first event as something predetermined and inevitable, they though tended to explain the second one as a free will. However, the ideas lying behind both phenomena remain the same, as according to Nagel, the sum of various circumstances, such as the hereditary constitution, different events occurring in one’s life and alike affect one another, influence a particular decision and make it inevitable (163). Moreover, the very process of making decisions is only a continuation of the occurrence predetermined to happen (163). Therefore, every decision or event is predetermined from the beginning.
The defender of compatibilism defends a position when a person is free in his decisions. Stace gives an example of Mahatma Gandhi and his starvation to free India (446). The author argues Gandhi could refuse from starvation if he wanted to, so that makes a decision an option. Nagel, when considering the example with a cake and peach, explains people tend to believe they can choose one option over another one at a particular moment with the same set of conditions, in other words, “just then, as things actually were” (162). However, the key idea people miss is nothing would have changed the decision to prefer a cake to peach just because other conditions would be present at that moment (Nagel 162). In its core meaning, the choice has already been predetermined by the choices made earlier which influenced the decision to eat a cake. People have a possibility to analyze and understand their decisions, but have no access to change their mind as in the case of Gandhi, whose predestination was already determined by his upbringing, physical peculiarities, character, and political situation in his country and so forth. Therefore, there is no option to modify the course of things since the preceding events influence the subsequent ones.
When considering the notion of a choice and responsibility for it one should treat people’s behaviour as an inevitable outcome. As Nagel states if determinism was true, nobody could accuse anyone of any deeds or glorify them. Since everything is predestined, no one has any kind of guilt for the actions he committed. While this type of thinking is not fully applicable to real life, Nagel proposes to view any type of undesirable behaviours, such as frauds, as a natural course of occasions and not to question the guiding reasons of these individuals since one cannot change anything (164). This approach sounds reasonable since there is no call to worry over the consequences; instead, one should accept them and live further. The writer compares attempts to change the course of things to punish a dog for chewing a carpet (164). Indeed, one cannot consider a thief responsible for his actions; instead, he or she may avoid the undesirable future consequences. Therefore, life is predetermined and there is no need to accuse people; instead, they should face the interpretation of their actions.
Nevertheless, there exists another point of view the core concept of which is that one should take moral responsibility and change the course of circumstances. Stace gives a case of a child whose parents punish him for telling lies and in this way try to prevent him from behaving badly (448). Furthermore, the author explains the fear of pain would teach the child to be obedient and therefore, the parents are able to modify their child’s behaviour and the future consequences (448). However, Stace’s arguments do not question whether the parents’ deeds are in their own nature predetermined. The idea that taking moral responsibility changes the outcomes is not reliable since it itself is a result of the latter sequence of events. The parents, in turn, received their own type of upbringing, which contributed to the corresponding upbringing of their child. Moreover, other factors come into play, such as the environment the child grows up in, his friends, character and many others. Therefore, moral responsibility cannot negate determination and falls under its influence.
The defender of compatibilism differentiates decisions from determination. Stace argues the key characteristics differentiating the free will from predetermined conditions is that individuals carry out the former one because of their desires, motives and various psychological reasons (447). Moreover, they perform the latter ones, which the writer calls unfree acts, due to the physical forces and any kind of outside stimuli which the agent cannot control (Stace 447). However, the philosopher acknowledges there are confusing situations when it is hard to define exactly whether a free will comes into play (Stace 447). Stace propose...