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Freedom and Determinism Essay

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Updated: Feb 8th, 2019


Freedom refers to the ability of people to act or undertake any activities without undue restrictions or coercion. In the 19th century, some philosophers disqualified the presence of real or genuine freedom in the world. The philosophers described freedom as an illusion, which exists in the ideal world only. However, in the 20th century, philosophers highlighted that genuine free will, which is not counterfeit exists in the world (Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon 18).

The philosophers further elucidated that due to democracy, people are free from different forms of restrictions such as slavery, subjugation, colonialism, and other forms of domination. On the other hand, determinism theory explains that there is an order that leads to occurrences of events in the world and in the universe. Thus, according to proponents of determinism, actions that people perform determine outcomes.

Freedom and determinism have major differences. While freedom encourages people to perform activities in a democratic manner, determinism brings to fore the fact that actions lead to predictable results. Conversely, as much as people are free from many forms of coercion, dictation, or subjection, freedom is limited to those actions that are legal and ethical.

Hence, express freedom is not in the world, since the state determines legality of actions and morality in the society. The sovereignty of a state in determination of choice is evident from the existing variance of rights and wrongs in various nations, societies, and states. According to Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon, determinism implies that as much as humans are free to perform any activity, they must know that these actions have outcomes (64).

For instance, when an individual throws a stone into a glass window, the expected outcome is breakage of the glass and destruction of the window. Thus, determinism elaborates the need to examine a likely outcome from an event before engaging in it. In this view, the essay assesses the relationship between freedom and determinism in contemporary society.


Freedom is the ability of people to perform activities or make choices without any limitation, coercion, or dictation. Freedom has its basis on the fact that human beings can make choices in a manner that is free from any form of compulsion. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many countries were under colonial and tyrannical rulers who applied dictatorship in their regimes. Therefore, philosophers and other scholars of that time could not see the possibility of true freedom existing, since they experienced dictatorship.

Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon argue that with the advent of independence, many citizens living in various states or nations gained freedom to undertake various activities (53). Democracy and liberty in these nations gave them the autonomy to decide and do things that they deemed right. Additionally, these countries and nations gave their citizens the right to work, worship, and engage in activities that they believed was good for them.

Types of Freedom

Individuality and Positive Freedom

There are various types of freedom present in the world. They include individuality, positive liberty, freedom from manipulation, and negative liberty. Individuality gives a person the opportunity to express and develop a personality, which is different. The demonstration involves public and private lives, which comprise personality of a person.

Societal norms, traditional beliefs, and technological advancements are some of the factors that significantly affect this form of freedom. Since the norms, beliefs, and advancements touch on one’s livelihood, they are likely to determine how one displays the unique self. Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon assert that cultural practices and traditional beliefs dictate the life of a person as they have power to influence development of a certain behaviors (632). Positive free will is the autonomy to perform various things without restraints.

Presently, human beings have the freedom to do some things only if they get assistance from others. For example, someone cannot read or write unless helped by another person who knows how to read and write, yet it is a right accorded by the state. Thus, according to positive freedom, some activities that are regarded as rights require extended assistance from others or have limitations that the concerned person has to meet before doing the act.

Freedom from Manipulation and Negative Freedom

Freedom from manipulation emphasizes on the need for societies or communities to treat others as ends in themselves. It articulates the vitality of giving one the freedom to make informed decisions concerning what is good or bad. Since freedom is an art, people should not employ it to demean or oppress others (Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon 627).

Freedom from manipulation explains that superiors are likely to employ others as a means to their ends, and dump them after achieving their desired ends. Thus, this type of autonomy promotes self-sufficiency and cushions persons from exploitation.

On the other hand, negative liberty asserts that an individual is free to use properties or belongings without interference from external entities. In this form of autonomy, the state protects the citizens from tangible or actual actions on properties or bodily harm. Subsequently, it allows the use and employment of these resources by the rightful owners in their quest to achieve financial, economic, cultural, and societal freedoms.


Determinism is a philosophy, which states that actions lead to expected results. In deterministic approach, one can predict the outcome of an action before initiating it.

The philosophy also argues that for any action, there are conditions, which an individual must consider before doing something (Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon 640). People usually execute their actions in line with the expected consequences, whether they are good or bad. Notably, determinism notes that all events in the universe and on earth owe their existence to actions that precede them.

Determinism brings to fore the fact that actions lead to predictable results. Hence, determinism demonstrates the presence of an order that leads to occurrences of events in the world and in the universe. Hence, determinism articulates the fact that consequences attribute their existence to actions, such that an action automatically leads to a given result or outcome. Fundamentally, determinism exists as environmental, biological, cultural, and behavioral types, which dictates the occurrence of events.

Types of Determinism

Biological and Cultural Determinism

Biological determinism explains that people behave in ways that display genetic structures. This type of determinism elaborates that genes determine a person’s behavior and influence what one does directly. Regarding this philosophy, genes have definitive control of one’s behavior and that a person does not determine what to do if it is against the control of genes. Philosophers often argue that irrespective of the control that genes have on an individual’s behavior, environment and society can at times lead to slight behavioral changes.

Cultural determinism notes that when a person lives in a certain environment under the influence of a given culture, the character that one gains reflects cultural setup. Thus, many members of a given society will behave in line with cultural structures inherited from the society. According to Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon, televisions, radios, and other media of communication play a pivotal role in instilling social and cultural values to an individual (621).

As opposed to innate traits acquired biologically from parents, cultural determinism asserts its influence through events and practices of the society. Therefore, political, social, and economic structures of a community attribute their organizations to the cultural elements inherited by individuals.

Environmental and Behavioral Determinism

Environmental determinism also refers to geographical or climatic determinism. The type of climate or weather condition limits actions that people do. This is apparent from the different economic activities that humans carry out in various parts of the world.

For example, agriculture takes place in areas with fertile and good soils, whereas mining occurs in areas with high fossil deposits. Consequently, it is likely that people living around these regions do things that produce ends, which meet their desired needs. Behavioral determinism explains that one’s behavior has a direct link to what one does.

For example, what an introvert does is different from what another person who is an extrovert chooses to undertake. The link between actions and behavior is based on the fact that it concerns thoughts of an individual. People always engage in those activities that they believe to give good results based on observations, perspectives, and prior experiences (Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon 640).

Therefore, one is likely to select those activities that are relevant to certain behavior and produce desired outcomes. Notably, there is a close relationship between behavioral and environmental types of determinism. The relationship exists because both environment and behaviour determine character of a person to some extent, and hence, contribute to the overall behavior.

Relationship between Freedom and Determinism

Freedom allows people to undertake legal activities without any restrictions or coercion. It is also liberation from all forms of coercion, duress, subjection, or dictatorship.

Thus, with freedom, one can enjoy the right or independence to do things that could not be possible in the absence of freedom. Freedom encompasses rights such as the right to worship, which explains the fact that human beings can worship a god of their choice. Additionally, it includes the right to education, which asserts that one is eligible to know how to read and write. It also incorporates the right to basic needs in that someone has the right to be in possession of food, shelter, and clothes (Bowie, Michaels, and Solomon 647).

Determinism holds that consequences are subject to actions, and that an individual dictates the outcome of an event through the kind of activities undertaken. Thus, while freedom provides room for individuals to enjoy liberty and engage in actions that they deem right, determinism demonstrates the fact that actions have consequences, which are directly proportional to the magnitude of an act.


Freedom gives individuals the right to do things that the society deems legal and ethical. However, one always chooses those activities that are practical in the contemporary life. This implies that as much as there is freedom, determinism still dictates and overrides the choice of actions that a person executes. For instance, the presence of the right to worship only aids a member of a society to exercise cultural determinism and worship gods inherited from cultural background of a certain community.

Additionally, members of a state or a nation engage in activities that relate to determinism, and so freedom helps them to perform actions that they deem necessary in line with their behavioral, biological, cultural, and other types of determinism. Thus, it is clear from the essay that freedom and determinism have some form of a relationship.

Works Cited

Bowie, Lee, Meredith Michaels, and Robert Solomon. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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