Free Will Versus Determinism

Free Will Versus Determinism
Let?s say that, somehow, a very expensive diamond ring falls off of somebody?s hand in front of you, and the owner of the ring just keeps walking on, oblivious to what had happened. You pick up the ring, and you are now debating as to whether or not you should return the ring. The person looks to be quite rich, and apparently did not care about the ring enough that she was able to lose it the way she did. Now you are torn between two choices ? should you return the ring? Or should you keep it and do with it what you please?
This example shows a number of philosophical ideas ? Are we free, or are our actions determined some sort of external force? What will happen if you decide to keep it, or if you decide to return it?
Are we free, or are our actions determined by some sort of external force?
Before this question can be answered, one must know what free will and determinism are. According to the Discovering Philosophy textbook, written by Thomas White. ?Free will claims that we have control over our actions.? In other words, we are the cause of whatever happens to us. ?Determinism?maintains that everything in nature, including human behavior, happens as a result of cause and effect.? This is the opposite of free will because it claims that there is a predetermined reason for why something happens. Are we truly free? ?All of us ordinarily feel free to do what we like?but are we free? (White 59)? Humans are constrained by a number of external forces, including brute force, pressures, and feelings.
Let me relate this to the scenario above. We could be constrained by brute force because the woman who lost the ring might come back and see you with it, and literally come after you ?with guns ablaze,? which ?forces? you to return the ring. An external force acted on you to made you do it ? which means that you were not free to do as you please. Secondly, let?s say that someone sees you pick it up, and they tell you that you should return it. Are they playing the ?guilt? card, almost ?forcing? you to return the ring? Finally, maybe your own mind will ?force? you to return the item. In other words, you are playing the ?guilt? card on yourself! You could just keep the ring, but your mind will interfere, questioning whether or not your decision the best. Thus, you are preventing yourself from being free.
Determinists bring up some interesting arguments. ?Although [their] theories may differ in their details, they all contain a common thread ? the idea that free choice is impossible because anything that exists is physical and material ? and physical, material objects are subject to laws of nature like cause and effect? (White 61). All determinists believe in materialism ? the ?theory about the nature of reality?[that says] if something exists, it must be physical and subject to natural laws like cause and effect? (61). If you can touch, feel, smell, taste, you can determine that it is real. Determinists use materialism to attempt to disprove free will ? everything that happens has a predetermined cause, which in turn had a predetermined cause, and so on.
White best explains determinism:

?Determinism?s strongest argument is probably that it is scientific?it is hard to resist a no-nonsense approach that explains everything in terms of natural principles backed up by empirical evidence?[it has] an almost infinite chain of causes?which stretch back in time to the creation of the universe?A universe like this is a rational, logical, ordered place.? (White 81)

To believe that to summarize determinism, all one must say is that anything that can be sensed by our senses is real, and that anything that is real was a result of something that had occurred before it.
However, those who believe in free will have their arguments as well. Let?s return to the example of the dropped ring. You have a number of options to choose from. This is known as indeterminism. Because you have choices, people who believe in free will argue, your actions are not determined. If you choose the wrong choice, you will feel regret. Determinists do not have this belief. Whatever was supposed to happen, will happen, and there is nothing to regret. Finally, there is the freedom that is known as existentialism, or the ?belief that humans are free and shape their own lives according to their own plans? (White 99). This radical belief states that humans make their own choices based solely on what they want.
I am unable to truly comprehend how someone who is an existentialist thinks. While sometimes I wonder if we truly are the masters of our own lives, I cannot believe that at least some of the things that we do are not predetermined.

What will happen if I decide to keep it? The choice between right and wrong.
You have picked up the ring, and the rich woman looks as though she is just going to keep walking, probably not even realizing that she has lost it. The question is, would it be ethical to just keep the ring? Or would it be ethical to return it to its? owner? ?Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with establishing standards of conduct? (White 154). You realize that the woman will probably feel a high amount of pain because she lost what seems to be a very expensive ring, but you also realize that you will experience a high amount of pleasure because you can probably sell it for a lot of money. So, you have to ask yourself, is it ?right? to come out of this situation with something that is tangible (money), or do you believe that it would be more ?right? to return the ring and get that feeling of happiness that you did something? Using Benthams?s hedonistic calculus, we would find that you would have a lot more happiness keeping the ring than returning it. So, the answer to whether or not you should keep it is now up to you. Given the fact that you would probably be happier (but at the expense of someone?s else?s pain), would you do it?
Doing the right thing sometimes is extremely difficult, but sometimes, the intangible benefits can be worth the ?pain? of not getting something that is tangible. Your social contract says you probably return it ? because ?finders keepers? does not work in the real world. In Skinner?s utopian society, you would return the ring without a second thought, but in this world, you have to think about your needs. Do you need the money that you would get from selling the ring ? or would you rather have the knowledge that you did something good?
To explain, Plato says that the a healthy soul consists of three parts: a physical part, a spirited part, and an intellectual part. Taking the example above, I will explain how these are affected.
If you are homeless, or just lacking money, you might feel better about keeping the ring, because you can better yourself. Your mind and your spirit would feel better because you are happier in the situation that you are in. Stereotypically, you probably do not care that the woman lost her ring, because you once lost everything ? and a mere ring is nothing. But what if you don?t need the money, but still decide to keep it? Sure, you might make yourself physically better (a new suit, maybe a haircut), but your mind will be at unrest, and your spirit will diminish because of it. Now, what if you return the ring. You won?t make yourself better physically, but your mind and spirit will be happy, which will make you feel better physically.
I probably would return the ring after some debate with myself. I would have to decide that my needs are not as great as the woman?s, even though she probably is better off than me Now, I did state earlier that I believe in determinism, so I am only saying what I would had I been put into that situation. I will be ?good? in the eyes of my mind and my spirit, I will have fulfilled my duties as stated in my social contract, I will feel as though I did ?right.? I will be balanced, and who knows, I might come out with a little bit of something tangible ? money. Sounds good to me.

Free Will Versus Determinism 8.1 of 10 on the basis of 1595 Review.