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Freedom and Determinism
An important philosophical debate over the nature and existence of human freedom has involved two main positions that, ironically, agree on the deterministic nature of human actions. On the one side, hard determinists have argued that freedom does not exist because all human actions are determined by the laws of physics and chemistry. Since people lack the ability to do anything other than what they are physically determined to do, hard determinists argue that they lack real freedom. On the other side of the debate are compatibilists who agree with the hard determinists that all human actions are determined. However, compatibilists insist that this in no way undermines human freedom, once freedom is properly understood. In this essay, I am going to defend compatibilist position by demonstrating how the compatibilist’s account of freedom is far superior to the account provided by the hard determinist. To do this, I’ll first explain both hard determinism and compatibilism and make clear the points on which they agree and disagree. Then, I’ll provide my main argument in favor of compatibilism which will employ vivid examples to demonstrate why the compatibilist notion of freedom is superior. Next, I’ll consider a possible objection to my examples and then show why the objection fails to undermine their support for compatibilism. The paper will conclude with a brief discussion of some further considerations that seem to support compatibilism.
Hard determinism has two main tenets – 1) human actions are completely determined and, 2) freedom requires the ability to otherwise. Let’s consider each of these individually before seeing how, when combined, they lead to the conclusion that humans are not free. Human decisions and behavior appears to be entirely guided by neurological events in the brain. Since the brain is entirely physical in