"We are Free"

"We are Free"

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Year 11 have been discussing ideas surrounding whether we are free or determined and the impact this has on our moral responsibility. This topic has allowed students to explore key philosophical and ethical ideas in preparation for September. Darcey has written a thought provoking essay on whether we are free...

Society fills our minds with many questions about whether we are actually free or not. Do we really have full control of our actions and day-to-day lives and have that constant allowance of free will? Or, are our lives partly influenced or fully planned and control leaving us with either some or no free will at all.

Some libertarians, such as John-Paul Satre, influenced others by his strong beliefs of free will. He suggested that the idea of free will and freedom for humanity was unlimited; therefore, we are all morally responsible for our actions. It is possible to achieve full freedom as long as we are willing to face the consequences that are based upon that, but the option of actually participating in that action is of your full control as, ‘man is not free not to be free’. So therefore, one would argue that from a libertarian perspective we are free. Other libertarians would agree further by arguing that, freedom was not illusion as it is unlimited and as humanity, we are not created to be controlled by no one, but to be created to procreate and to develop life and adventure, which is all based on 100% free will and none of which is determined. So therefore, we all have the power of infinite freedom.

However, others such as the hard determinists of society will have views that shall contradict massively with people, such as the libertarians, as they strongly deny the belief that humanity has free will and believes that all actions have a prior cause. Therefore, it removes moral responsibility for our actions and suggests that we did not choose to perform or commit any actions as they are influenced. Similarly, some Christians believe that our actions could be pre-planned by God (predestination), these are determined before we are even born – as God created life and this Earth, and what is put on it. Therefore, demonstrating that we are not free but controlled or influenced by others, or as Sigmund Freud suggested, by our early years of history having an immense impact on our actions and behaviour. For example, laws and rights have developed because of the key events of history such as women’s rights to vote today because of the suffragette movement in the early 20th century, or the development of today’s knowledge of the world and science of nature because of the Big Bang, Ice Age or pre-extinct animals life shown such as the dinosaurs. In addition, these theories show that we have no control of the past, or future, or present as we are not free, as our actions may be controlled by the behaviour of our society now and before.

Although others, such as soft determinists, believe in the idea of compatibilism where we can be both free yet determined – as some of our actions are free like our moral choices but some aspects of our nature are determined. For example, some Christians follow the Bible as it says humans have been given free will similarly to when Adam and Eve used their free will in choosing to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, although they had been told not too. Therefore, they were free as they disobeyed the ‘right’ order and therefore punished for it, as they were morally responsible for their free will action. However, other Christians may argue that God gave them free will because he knew of the choices we would make so therefore, effectively influenced our actions as he had a consequence for them – which explains why there is moral evil as well.

Although, other soft determinists may believe that we have no control of some actions because of other factors such as the climate, natural disasters and hours in a day to do certain actions. Therefore, we have free will to an extent, but have other factors such as the environment that are not part of that freedom so therefore determine our free will. Other factors such as; social conditioning and our genes also have the power to limit our free will as we can’t and won’t ever have the freedom to choose how we look like physically because our genes are fixed, therefore inevitable but our personality can be changed by society. Thomas Sowell demonstrated this when he said, “the idea that human self is infinitively plastic, allowing humanity to be changed and ultimately, perfected.” This means that our physical appearance is inflexible but our soul and thoughts can be changed until our content because of our freedom to do so or because of other determining factors like upbringing, surroundings like school/ education or where we live etc. Lastly suggesting that we are free to an extent until determinism comes in to guide, influence or punish us.

In conclusion, I believe that there are many factors to why we are free then how we are not, to a point that we are totally determined by what we do. However, I am more influenced by the belief of soft determinism (compatibilism) as I believe that we are free to an extent and that our freedom can be limited by determining factors such as; environmental, social conditioning, genes and psychology etc. Supplementary to this, I think that if we were fully free with no determinism then it can cause conflict are we are morally responsible for all actions and thoughts so therefore is having 100% freedom really true or good for humanity? However, I do believe we are accountable for our actions to an extent otherwise why do we have options or free thoughts of what to do but are controlled or limited by some factors some of the time; so, I believe more in the idea of soft determinism.

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