The concept of free-will is one that has been widely disputed in the field of philosophy. It is the purpose of this paper to investigate the problem of free will. I will provide arguments in favor of the idea that humans do not have the power of free will.
I will also explain what the possible benefit could be to allowing humans to believe that they have free will even if they do not. I intend to show that free will does not exist. In setting out to defend this claim, first I will discuss determinism and human choices.
Second, I will discuss neuropsychology and how this affects human abilities to make choices. Lastly, I will discuss the argument for allowing humans to go on believing in free will. Free will is the notion that individuals have the ability to make one decision over another. For one to have free will one must also have freedom from external causes and agents. Humans do not have the power of free will due to the fact that there will always be outside influences that have an impact on our choices. The choices that an individual makes are more the result of social expectations than the power of their own free will.
To understand this, consider the following examples. Who you choose to marry, what job you have, where you go to college or having a family are all choices that people make in theory on their own. However, depending on where you’re from or the values that your family holds it could heavily influence all of these decisions. This example shows that it is virtually impossible to make a choice without any sort of influence whether these influences are conscious or subconscious. Thus arguing that humans are not making choices out of free will. Determinism is a theory that denies the existence of free will. The determinist position states “in a universe governed by the strictest natural laws, all events arise naturally and inevitably from causative factors that follow these laws.
” Determinism holds that the laws of nature are fixed and that all of the occurences in the world are causally bound by previous occurrences. Even if people believe they are making a decision on their own, determinism states that they didn’t actually make this choice and their own they made it because of these strict natural laws. The choices are inevitable because of other predetermined factors. It’s a cause and effect cycle, everything has a cause and everything has an effect.
Humans can’t have the power of free will if life choices are decided by cause and effect. More recently there has been research done on the brain and how it alters behaviors. By using brain scanners, scientists have been able to study neurons and the effect of the firing of neurons. They found that the network of neurons are “shaped by both genes and environment.” They came to the agreement that the “firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams.
” Since the firing of neurons is what is determining every part of us then it is our neurons firing that are making our decisions and not free will. The human brain is a system that can be understood with knowledge of brain structure and with this knowledge the conclusion can be made that actions are predictable. If we are able to predict someone’s choices before they are made then it is clear free will is an illusion. Free will would make choices more illogical and would be impossible to predict. It is scientifically impossible to make decisions inherently on your own when neurons in the brain are shaped by genes and environment. Both of these have clear influence on choices. Those in favor of free will can argue that if one agrees with determinism then they give up moral responsibility for human actions.
If determinism is true, then our actions are simply the consequences of the laws of nature and previous events. So it follows that the consequences of our actions are not up to us. Determinism does not provide an explanation for one’s behavior, showing that morality does not exist.
Because if no one can choose otherwise, then the concept of responsibility does not exist. In a world that is held by a determinist, in order to have free will humans must have the ability to violate the laws of nature. And since it is wrong to think that an individual will violate the laws of nature, determinism poses an issue with moral responsibility. It would potentially cause a certain amount of chaos if people were all suddenly told that they didn’t have free will and all choices were not fully your own. Andrew Griffin stated in Independent that “the idea of free will may have arisen because it is a useful thing to have, giving people a feeling of control over their lives and allowing for people to be punished for wrongdoing.” People are provided with a sense of security that when everything in their life is going wrong they still are able to have control. It also brings up the issue of if a crime is committed the argument could be made that there should be no consequences because the idea was not their own since humans don’t have free will.
However, one cannot believe free-will just because it provides a sense of security to people. In philosophy, one cannot hold something to be true because it provides comfort. Kathleen Vohs and Jonathan Schooler conducted an experiment to test what exactly would happen if people lost the ability to believe in their capacity to choose. They had one group read an article that discussed free will being an illusion while the other group read an article that had a more neutral stance on the topic. The participants were then instructed to take a math test.
The researches made the test extremely easy to cheat on and they found that the participants that read about free will being an illusion we’re more likely to cheat. It was concluded that “people who are induced to believe less in free will are more likely to behave immorally.” Other studies have been conducted as well and they all found relatively the same outcome that when people believe free will is an illusion it “has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.” It is clear that while free will is just an illusion there is a benefit to society being unaware of the truth. Despite these benefits it doesn’t change the fact that humans do not have the power of free will. On a more basic level, all choices are impacted by social pressures and expectations. There will always be some sort of outside influence that is affecting your decisions and thoughts in some way.
Many times we aren’t even away of these influences and that they are affecting us. Causing people to think that they are in control of their choices when in fact they’re not. Determinism adds to this idea of humans not being in control of their own choices. Everything is cause and effect and all of humans thoughts and choices were inevitable due to the strict natural laws. On a more complex level neuroscience has provided evidence to support that choices are not made because of free will; they are made because of our brain system firing neurons. These neurons guide our thoughts, feelings and all of our choices.
The brain is a machine that is running the show and we, as humans, are just along for the ride. External and internal sources, which can range anywhere from neurons to religious beliefs or to social expectations, will always have an affect on our ideas and choices than it’s clear that humans cannot be in control of their actions.