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Free Will vs. Determinism as Philosophical Concepts Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2022

The enduring debate about whether choice or determinism influences human behavior and actions reveals interesting perspectives. Freedom and determination are opposing forces that represent a situation where people can decide their demeanor or have no control over them, respectively. Contention surrounds the concepts of free choice and causality to understand whether man creates his destiny or follows a definite path set for him. The perplexing issues include how to account for or change actions and fate depending on whether they come from within or from external stimuli (Willoughby et al. 137). An objective and meticulous examination of the freedom and responsibility spectrum that highlights the difference between choice and causation explains whether human actions are free or predetermined.

Self-discretion refers to the inherent capacity for someone to choose his actions or behavior without any form of restriction. The keyword that drives choice is self-determination, such as deciding to commit a crime or avoid it, fully aware of the repercussions. Interestingly, this does not imply that behavior occurs randomly but that individuals are free from the causal influences derived from experiences (Willoughby et al. 143). The humanistic approach delineates self-discretion as the agency to exercise personal preferences regarding the consequences of the exhibited behavior. Famed humanists psychologists, such as Maslow argue that freedom is possible and necessary for man to become fully functional. Undeniably, self-actualization is a unique human need and motivation that illustrates man’s uniqueness from other species.

Determinism and the determinist perspective posit that every demeanor or action is predictable by virtue of having a cause. Essentially, the determinist school of thought rejects freedom as an illusion and cites internal and external forces beyond human control as the source of behavior. Consequently, determinists observe human action and behavior from two angles, namely external and internal determinism (Willoughby et al. 149). External determinists observe behavior as a human trait resulting from external influencers, such as the media, peers, school, and parents. Social learning theory and behaviorism acknowledge the value of external influence (Willoughby et al. 151) as illustrated by Bandura who linked children’s aggressive behavior with what they observed and imitated from their parents.

Internal determinism explains how forces from within a person shape behavior and actions. Sociobiology acknowledges the value of genetic inheritance that represents forces derived from inside a family to govern the behavior of its members. The justification of the innate forces is evident when a child shows the natural need to attach to one figure, such as a parent or a caregiver (Willoughby et al. 155). Undeniably, personal characteristics, such as neuroticism and extraversion cause behavior that stem from hormonal and neurological processes of the body.

Determinism is evident through different levels to show its causal effects on human behavior. Hard determinism that is championed by behaviorists emphasizes the fact that every action and behavior has a cause and choice is a fantasy. According to Skinner, people who commit crimes have no choice but act in response to their personal history and environmental circumstances that make violating the law inevitable and natural (Willoughby et al. 161). Conversely, soft determinism acknowledges that people have choices, albeit constrained by external and internal forces. This element of free will is evident by the argument that being poor does not motivate people to steal but increases their likelihood to pursue the option due to desperation.

Conclusively, free choice and causation are important forces that can explain human actions and behavior as shown in the freedom and responsibility spectrum. Each of the perspectives explaining people’s demeanor offers a valid argument that reveals their credibility. Researchers and policymakers can gain much insight to implement strategies, policies, and laws that embrace the value of choice and causality in explaining human actions and behavior.

Works Cited

Willoughby, Emily A., et al. “Free Will, Determinism, and Intuitive Judgments about the Heritability of Behavior.” Behavior Genetics, vol. 49, no. 2, 2019, pp. 136-153.

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