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Free will is the idea that we, as human beings, are free agents with the ability to choose our own actions. A free agent can do whatever he or she wants and will always have liberty, which is defined as the absence of external impediments (Fischer et al. 5). As a result, our reactions are not dictated by external forces, and we are free to choose what to do and what not to do. Determinism, on the other hand, refers to the thesis that the course of future is in conjunction with the laws of nature and the previous events: our courses of action are not as a result of the free choice, but it is subjected to certain forces including the laws of nature and the past happenings (Timpe). This is to say that our course of action is not a product of the individual free will of choice but is affected by certain forces including the natural effects and events that occurred in the past. It, therefore, means that we cannot morally be held responsible for our actions.
From mere observation of the physical situation, the determinism will operate according to predictable laws of nature. For instance, it is by the predictable laws of nature that several scientific experiments have been conducted and the outcome has always been same with deviation under the different experimental conditions. Since human beings exist naturally amidst such natural laws, we are therefore operating under the influence of these laws of nature. For example, if we could reverse time and observe if a course of our action is constant, then Descartes argues that the spirit acting under free will would be at will to direct our bodies or do otherwise (Descartes 11). In other words, Descartes embrace the existence of natural laws but confirms that our actions are not determined by the constraints of the laws above of nature but by the spirit (a free agent).
Fischer, John Martin, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, and Manuel Vargas. Four Views on Free Will. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2007. Print.
Timpe Kevin. "Free Will." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.
Descartes, R. "Meditations on first philosophy. (J. Cottingham, trans., 1996)."
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