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Determinism, Compatibilism and Libertarianism Philosophy Comparison Essay

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Updated: May 11th, 2020


Philosophy of freedom has been explored extensively in the past. Consequently, theorists have come up with different philosophical ideas to explain the occurrence of events. Additionally, theorists have tried to explain human actions and desires. Determinism is usually compared to casualty. On the other hand, compatibilism is commonly weighed against free will. Additionally, libertarianism is often judged against privileges. This paper will try to define determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism. Furthermore, the paper will compare and contrast the mentioned philosophical positions. Moreover, it will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the positions. Consequently, the paper will decide on the best position (Bratman 14).


Determinism refers to the philosophical thinking that antecedent events determine human actions and decisions, as well as human affairs. Determinism is different from determination or pre-determinism. Deterministic events have been found to arise from overlapping or diverse considerations and motives. At times determinism refers to causality. In this regard, it refers to a cause-and-effect phenomenon, a philosophy in physics. The cause-and-effect phenomenon states that events within a specified pattern are guarded by causality, such that any occurrence is influenced by prior situations. In essence, determinism argues that preceding incidences, which may extend back to the creation of the cosmos, have an unbroken chain that links the events (Zimmerman 221).


Compatibilism is sometimes known as soft determinism. Essentially, compatibilists argue that determinism is right. Additionally, the position implies that every incident is caused. Moreover, it shows that the concept of free will exists. In general, compatibilists argue that events can be both free and caused. Influential philosophers like Daniel Dennett, among others, have advocated for compatibilism. According to Hobbes, individuals’ voluntary deeds are usually the same. However, their people’s actions transpire due to a chain of past events, which can be traced back to the creation of the space. In essence, freedom comes from one’s free will, while limitations are compelled.


Libertarianism refers to a state of free will. This philosophical thought comes from the word liberty, which is also known as autonomy or sovereignty. Libertarians suggest that people should be left to decide their own fate in whatever they undertake. In essence, libertarianism posits that individuals ought to be allowed to move with their lives as they desire. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that tries to affirm one’s right to liberty. Libertarianism also works to protect an individual’s right to holdings. Essentially, this philosophical thought emphasizes the basics of moral principles. Libertarians also emphasize toleration, justice, and prosperity among individuals. Furthermore, libertarianism works to encourage responsibility, peace, and co-operation.


Compatibilism is closely linked to causal determinism in that it agrees with the fact that past events affect future events. The difference only exists when compatibilism posits that people also act as free agents, who are morally responsible. In essence, compatibilism can also be considered as a soft determinism. In essence, for proponents of compatibilism, the fact that human actions are coerced by previous events does not nullify the idea that individuals have choices. In general, deterministic theories postulate that every event must have a cause, which is also similar to compatibility belief that determinism is true (SEP 1).


While determinism implies that past events define future events (if the laws of nature are fixed), libertarianism implies that past events do not necessarily define future events (even if laws of nature remain constant). This happens because libertarianism holds that people’s decisions or actions come from a free will, and the decisions are not controlled by past events. On the other hand, people’s decisions or actions are coerced by past events indeterminism. It is also necessary to note that incompatibilism, there is a probability of past events affecting future events, although this can also be influenced by the free will.

Compatibilism cannot be assumed as a compromise between determinism and libertarianism. It should be noted that determinism rebuffs the notion of free will. On the other hand, libertarianism posits that people have free will. Additionally, libertarianism rebuffs compatibilism, since it does not advocate for determinism, which is also entailed incompatibilism. This philosophical thought is sometimes called soft determinism, since it agrees with determinism, although it adds that people also act freely. However, it should be noted that compatibilism does not combine with deterministic or libertarian positions. In essence, compatibilism is closely linked to determinism since the latter reinforces the former; however, compatibilism is not closely linked to libertarianism (Arpaly 25).


Libertarianism has an advantage in that it enables people to become morally responsible for their actions since they have the free will to decide on their activities. Libertarianism brings about a competitive system, which depends on the choices made by individuals in a society. Moreover, liberty provides freedom and rights for people in a society. Furthermore, libertarianism protects people from the unwarranted force from the government.

Determinism aids people in appreciating the law of nature. Additionally, determinism assists people to understand their environment. Furthermore, determinism eases one’s ability to promote and appreciate the gift of life. Determinism also encourages people to respect each other. In essence, determinism teaches people not to envy, or not to despise, among others. In general, determinism emphasizes the need to appreciate the natural world and fortune.

Compatibilism frees people from arcane scientific theories. In essence, people are not locked to determinism only but also to the fact that people have a free will. Compatibilism attributes moral responsibility in people irrespective of their knowledge of determinism. Compatibilism tries to explain human actions even when past events are not taken into consideration. Additionally, compatibilism tries to explain occurrences, which are complex with determinism.


Based on the belief of libertarians, it is within one’s power to believe or not. However, it should be noted that there are reasons that make people decide on a particular issue and not on another. For instance, Christians think that they cannot believe the gospel wholly without the help of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, a man does not have a free will as pointed above, there has to be someone or something influencing his/her actions. Additionally, libertarians’ affirmations of a causeless choice are quite weak, since everything seems to happen with a reason. For instance, one decides to eat when he/she is hungry. Additionally, one can run to the office when he/she is late.

Although determinism encourages appreciation of nature, it also promotes irresponsible behavior. For instance, criminal acts caused by previous events in one’s life can be blamed on such causalities. In this regard, the individual cannot be blamed. This makes the individual irresponsible. Additionally, determinism can undermine the justification for penalties.

Compatibilism presents a complex situation in explaining causal determinism and free will. For instance, determinism posits that one’s choices are determined by past events (when laws of nature remain unchanged). From this argument, when one chooses something different, then the laws of nature must change. In this regard, determinism is incompatible with the free will. It, therefore, becomes difficult for the two to be utilized by an individual.

The position is chosen: Libertarianism

Based on the arguments above, it is clear that determinism is logical. However, libertarianism appeals since it give liberty to people such that they work within their free will. When the concept of physical is taken into account, the laws of the universe are followed in principle. However, it is interesting to note that some laws of the universe have been defined in religious terms; for instance, Jesus walked on water. In this regard, it is only possible to choose libertarianism as the best option since it gives people the opportunity to explore their choices irrespective of past events. Libertarianism offers people an opportunity to be responsible for their behaviors. Additionally, libertarianism enables people to come up with a competitive society, in which people exercise their roles according to their ability and will (Chaffee 44).


A number of philosophical ideas have sprung up over the past. These include compatibilism, determinism, and libertarianism, among others. However, the three named philosophical positions have raised several debates around the world. Determinism posits that each incident must have a cause. On the other hand, libertarianism posits that people have the free will to do whatever they want whenever they wish. Additionally, compatibilism posits that determinism is true, although people have choices. Based on the strengths and weakness of the philosophical positions, libertarianism presents the best offer for freedom, as well as a moral responsibility.

Works Cited

Arpaly, Nomy. Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Bratman, Michael. Structures of Agency, New York: Oxford, 2007.

Chaffee, John. The Philosopher’s Way: A Text with Readings: Thinking Critically About Profound Ideas (4th ed.), Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson education, 2013.

SEP. 2009. Web.

Zimmerman, David. “Reasons-Responsiveness and the Ownership of Agency: Fischer and Ravizza’s Historicist Theory of Responsibility,” Journal of Ethics, 6.1 (2006): 199–234.

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