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Determinism and Indeterminism
The doctrine of determinism explains that all events and person’s deeds are regulated by the external agents and not the people’s will. For instance, according to D’Holbach, free will does not pertain to any individual. Therefore, the scientific findings and ideologies present strong evidence of any occurrence’s being regulated by the laws of nature and previous happenings (Vaughn 5.2). In order to prove their point of view, many philosophers use science as a testimony of determinism. These philosophers base their opinion on the outstanding achievements of the scientific methods in analyzing, justifying, and foreseeing various kinds of natural peculiarities (Vaughn 5.2). Opposite to determinism, indeterminism is defined as a characteristic of the universe allowing the “alternative futures” and the probability of freedom (Vaughn 5.2). According to this doctrine, free deeds are likely to take place as the free deeds are unforeseeable occurrences. Indeterminism is associated with opportunities.
I agree with the indeterminism position rather than with the determinism one. I do not think that people are unable to choose any actions and decisions by themselves. Many scientific discoveries were possible due to the scientists’ resolutions to do one thing rather than the other. Determinism is closely related to religion which believes that everything in the universe was decided long ago, and nothing can be changed now. I do not think that people’s past intentions, wishes, and impulses can impact their present and future without any chance for a change.
The supporters of determinism consider scientific achievement as the best explanation and proof of their doctrine. However, such position is dissipated by the very science. For instance, quantum physics does not support the ideas of determinism. The scientists in this area believe that at the subatomic level, not all of the occurrences are induced by some prior decisions (Vaughn 5.2).
The idea of this thesis is that the deterministic position may be combined with the acceptance of a person’s free will. The supporters of compatibilism doctrine defend the principle of “could do otherwise” (Vaughn 5.3). This approach presupposes that a person might have acted in another way if he/she chose to. Compatibilists’ argument that the people are “free” is connected with the suggestion that if one had wanted to do something in another way, nothing could have averted the individual from doing so (Vaughn 5.3).
I agree with the compatibilism “could do otherwise” approach. I support the idea that people are free to choose for themselves. Also, I think that we are able to change our decisions if we want to.
In objection to compatibilism, Rowe argues that this thesis is wrong. According to Rowe, when a person does what he/she desires, it does not mean that such actions are free and void of external restrictions (Vaughn 5.3). In his reply to Rowe’s opinion, Stace remarks that acts performed without restraints are the ones whose “immediate causes are psychological states in the agent” (Vaughn 5.3). Acts performed with restraints, according to Stace, are those impacted by the external state of things (Vaughn 5.3).
Contrary to compatibilists, libertarians argue that it is impossible to combine free will and determinism. For one thing, they need to demonstrate the justification of the belief that people can do something freely. For another thing, they need to prove that libertarianism theory of free will is persuasive and rational (Vaughn 5.4). The libertarians say that if determinism was to be true, every occurrence would be the outcome either of the past events or the natural laws governing those events. However, the libertarians note that people have no impact on the past and the laws of nature (Vaughn 5.4). Thus, the people cannot influence the past events and their outcomes. The libertarians suppose that if determinism was true and people had no right for free actions, compatibilism would be impossible (Vaughn 5.4).
I agree with the position presented by libertarianism. I believe that people do have a right to choose how to act in various situations. Also, I do not support the opinion that everything was preconditioned in the past.
In objection to libertarianism, determinism states that people have no option of choice. However, in reply to this opinion, the libertarians consider that all of our choices are only up to us.
The Free Will
The issue of free will is to coordinate the people’s understanding of their personal freedom with the ideas of determinism. The major concepts related to free will are determinism, hard determinism, indeterminism, compatibilism, incompatibilism, and libertarianism (Vaughn 5.1).
I support the free will to the point that people can have options. However, I do not agree with the deterministic view stating that all choices have already been made for us, and we are not able to alter anything in our present or future. Thus, it is hard for me to reconcile the concept of freedom with determinism. I support freedom rather that the free will problem.
The major oppositions to the free will problem are libertarianism, compatibilism, and hard determinism. Hard determinism presupposes no free will at all. Compatibilism allows the coexistence of determinism and free will. Libertarianism argues that a part of our actions can be free because our deeds are generated and administered by people or some motives (Vaughn 5.1). Answering these oppositions, many people consider the issue of free will essential. They find it important as it is connected with critical questions about juridical sanctions, moral accountability, approval and criticism, and political and social discipline (Vaughn 5.1).
The Problem of Knowledge
The problem of knowledge, as investigated by epistemologists, involves many questions. These questions include: how do we know if we know anything, how much knowledge do we have, is our knowledge only internal or also external, and many others (Vaughn 6.1). Epistemology is the philosophical analysis of knowledge which studies “whether, how, and to what extent” people know something (Vaughn 6.1).
It is not an easy matter, as the answers to these questions are not as definite as some of us tend to believe. People tend to take knowledge for granted and not contemplate on how they can apply it. However, the benefit of knowledge lies in its possibility to lead people to success and help them avoid mistakes (Vaughn 6.1).
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I agree that analyzing the origins and causes of knowledge is essential for the people’s development. We need to find out the reasons and the perspectives of our knowledge.
Opposite to epistemologists, there are skeptics who argue that people have no knowledge at all. However, with the help of reliability, epistemologists manage to prove their point. Knowledge is the power which can help us shape our attitude to the world and our place in it.
The Rationalist Road
The concept of rationalism supports the idea of people owning the knowledge and denies skepticism. Rationalists believe that the essential knowledge comes with the help of reason. However, rationalists have different opinions on how the knowledge is possible and how they come up with their decisions. The major rationalists were Plato and Descartes (Vaughn 6.2). Plato argued that experience was not sufficient for gaining knowledge. He considered the perceptions untrustworthy. Plato said that people should take knowledge from a respectable source, and he considered reason as such source (Vaughn 6.2). According to Plato, we can obtain knowledge as we are able to discriminate the wrong beliefs. The philosopher defended the objects of knowledge – the forms – as being unchanging and eternal.
I support Plato’s position about knowledge being the result of reason. I find rationalism important and agree in its denial of skepticism.
Descartes, on the contrary to Plato, defined knowledge in terms of doubt. He distinguished between rigorous knowledge and persuasion (Vaughn 6.1). Descartes argued that the core objects of knowledge were the general physical laws. Plato objected to such opinion by considering mathematics the model for the knowledge (Vaughn 6.1).
A Feminist Perspective on Knowledge
Feminism is connected with the ideas of women being treated unfairly due to prejudices. Feminists say that the biases are spread in the academic and social dimensions, and they lead to doubting women’s approaches and ideas (Vaughn 6.5). Additionally, they believe that feminist epistemology deprives women of the possibility to state their opinions about philosophy. There are several approaches to feminism in philosophy. They are all connected by the opinion that the biases are grounded on the basis of gender and have no rational explanation (Vaughn 6.5). According to Antony, feminist epistemology bases on the position of “situated knowledge” which explains the appearance of knowledge from the particular views of the people engaged in the process (Vaughn 6.5). The main argument is that because of gender biases, traditional epistemology prefers the dominance of male opinions and denies the female ones.
I agree that the female epistemology is represented much less than the male one. Bias against women resulted in too little representation of female opinions in philosophy.
Some male philosophers deny the prejudiced attitude towards women in epistemology and argue that women have equal rights and possibilities. However, Anderson contradicts this statement by pointing out that women have always been disadvantaged by the male philosophers ignoring their opinions and not allowing them epistemic authority (Vaughn 6.5).
Theism and Religious Experience
For some people, the ontological, teleological, and cosmological explanations are not sufficient when they define their belief in God. They connect this belief only with their religious experience and consider it enough to explain the existence of God. Some people explain their beliefs by cases of sensory experiences such as seeing the light, hearing some voices, or feeling a touch (Vaughn 2.4). Others have not encountered such sensory sensations but nevertheless, believe in the existence of some divine power (Vaughn 2.4).
The naturalistic approach is opposite to theistic one. The supporters of naturalism deny the importance of God in humans’ life and emphasize the significance of the natural processes in the development of the universe (Vaughn 2.4). While some people emphasize the existence of God on the premise that they believe in it, others deny such assumption. For instance, some critics of theism remark that naturalistic explanation of religious sensations is not worse and maybe even better that the theistic one (Vaughn 2.4). Mackie remarks that the religious encounters are usually identical to the existing physical or psychological explanations (Vaughn 2.4).
Personally I do not deny theism, but I consider the naturalistic approach significant. I think that both concepts have rational explanations of the religious beliefs.
Vaughn, Lewis. Philosophy Here and Now: Powerful Ideas in Everyday Life. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.