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Chapter Determinism

PHI 1103 Chapter Determinism: Textbook Notes on Determinism

Course Code
PHI 1103
Sardar Hosseini

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Determinism - Are humans Free?
Textbook notes - Classic Philosophical Questions
Holbach : Humans Are Determined (pages 322-330)
The denial of free will is called the belief in determinism.
Determinism is the belief that all acts are caused by past events, and given enough
knowledge, one could predict what a person would do.
Since man did not consent to be born, or for people or contract habits for him, for his
behaviours and emotions (to feel sad, mad, happy, wise, rational, etc.), for ideas to
come to him, then he has no control over them. Having no control over these things is
proof of determinism.
Religion and Justice depend on the idea of free will, because they need people to
believe they have a choice when acting so that they can take responsibility for their
behaviours. For example, someone who commits a crime would not be able to be
punished for it if they did not freely choose to commit the crime, therefore nobody would
be punished for being criminals.
Human vanity makes us believe we are above animals, but we are instinctual beings as
well. We simply have a conscience, so we are self-aware, but this does not mean we
aren’t on the same level as other species. We have natural laws (hunger, fear, etc.) that
we have no choice but to abide to.
When we act, we decide our course of action based on insight (memory and knowledge
that have been the effect of a cause) and so we don’t really have control. It’s human
instinct to avoid conflict and undesirable situations that we have already lived through.
Those are the deciding factors in decision making, not our own free will. That being
said, all actions are therefore determined.
Our will is our attraction to new ideas and impulses. Our desires are not products of our
free will, and because some desires are stronger than others, we act in order to satisfy
the strongest demand.
Term primium mobile : error philosophers make when only looking at the original motive
as opposed to the series of causes for that motive or a decision.
Man is not responsible for wanting something that appears desirable, that is out of our
control, but he learns to resist his passions which may come across as being in control
of his desires. This is just the illusion of free will.
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