Baron d'Holbach and William James on Free Will and Determinism

Baron d'Holbach and William James on Free Will and Determinism
Before we can discuss the issue between Baron d?Holbach and William James we have to know the definitions of the items the issue is about. Free will according to the Encarta encyclopedia is ?The power or ability of the human mind to choose a course of action or make a decision without being subject to restraints imposed by antecedent causes, by necessity, or by divine predetermination. A completely freewill act is a cause and not an effect; it is beyond causal sequence or the law of causality.? So according to this statement freewill is the ability for humans to make decisions without influences or outside restrictions.
The other issue that is being discussed between the two philosophers is determinism. Also determinism must be defined before interpreting their views. Determinism according to the Encarta encyclopedia is ?A philosophical doctrine holding that every event, mental as well as physical, has a cause, and that, the cause being given, the event follows invariably. This theory denies the element of chance or contingency.? Also like to other definition for free will this is confusing and incomplete to the reader. I think that determinism is a theory that every event has a cause and effect and that once a cause is stated than the event will follow.
Now that we have a clear picture of the issues being discussed we need to talk about the philosophers. The first philosopher is William James born in New York City during the year of 1842. He was an American philosopher and psychologist, who developed the philosophy of pragmatism. He attended private schools in the United States and Europe, the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University, and the Harvard Medical School, from which he received a degree in 1869. James became an instructor in psychology and philosophy at Harvard, Columbia University, and the University of Oxford throughout his life. James died in Chocorua, New Hampshire during the year of 1910 he was 58 years old.
The other philosopher is Baron d?Holbach born in 1723 and died in 1789. D?Holbach was German by birth and education, but French by fortune (he inherited his uncle?s money, estate and title). His estate was a meeting place for the leading French radical thinkers of the late 18th century. He also became a member of a group of notable thinkers and literary men including the Diderot, Helvétius, Condorcet, and Rousseau. He was an atheist, a determinist, and a materialist. He was an opponent of absolute monarchy, state religions and feudal privilege. It is fair to describe him as one of the most radical intellectuals of his time. His most famous works are The System of Nature, Good (or Common) Sense, or Natural Ideas vs. Supernatural Ideas.
Now that we know a little more about the issues and the philosophers we can discuss the issue between them. First, both of the philosophers believe in free will, but it is where free will comes from and why it?s necessary is where the differences between the two philosophers come in. William James believes in free will but related himself as an indeterminist while d?Holbach on the other hand is a hard determinist. Now an indeterminist is ?someone that holds that a free action has no cause or that free actions are caused by an agency existing outside of nature and unaffected by natural forces.? Basically this means that a ?free? action isn?t caused by something that isn?t by their self or their own will. Also a freely wild action isn?t one that is uncaused and thus unpredictable, but one whose cause is within them selves. For example; desires, character traits, and other motivating states. While determinists believe that laws of nature govern all events and we have no real control of our actions.
The real issue between these two philosophers is that one believes the person controls actions themselves and their own wants and desire. While the other, believes that the laws of nature or an outside force other then the person?s wants and desires control human actions. In my opinion I am a mixture of both hard determinism and indeterminism it only depends on the action or event that is occurring. Some event you have no control on what is occur it is left up to the so called laws of nature and others you have total control. These two theories can stir up a debate when it involves an automobile accident or a person that is or isn?t insane. In the end it all depends on each individuals opinion on who has a better argument.

4. Give Descartes? argument concerning the possibility that we may always be deceived by a malicious demon. Explain O.K. Bouwsma?s critique on Descartes.

In order to understand Descartes? argument you have to know a little bit about his background and beliefs. René Descartes was born in Born in La Haye, Touraine during the year of 1596. He was a French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, sometimes called the father of modern philosophy. At the age of eight he was enrolled in the Jesuit school of La Flèche in Anjou, where he remained for eight years. Roman Catholicism exerted a strong influence on Descartes throughout his life. Upon graduation from school, he studied law at the University of Poitiers, graduating in 1616. It was probably during the first years of his residence in the Netherlands that Descartes wrote his first major work, Philosophical Essays, published in 1637. This was followed by other philosophical works, among them Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641; revised 1642) and The Principles of Philosophy, 1644. The rigors of the northern winter brought on the pneumonia that caused his death in 1650.
After careful research regarding Descartes theory of an evil genius there is one way that this theory came about. The possibility is that our inherent mathematical abilities are the gift of a benign creator, a gift of God. As a supremely good being, he would not allow us to be deceived, and mathematical processes would be a point of certain and undeniable truth. If this were the case, the idea of mathematics would meet Descartes? objectives as a point of certainty. He asks the reader to imagine that instead of a benign God, there is an ?evil genius?. In this case, all things in the physical world would have to be thought of as deceptions, because all our sensory information, including ideas of sizes, shapes and colors would be fed to us by the evil genius.
Descartes ideas sometimes seem radical or extreme and his argument has been challenged many times. One of the people that challenged Descartes was O.K. Bouwsma when he wrote, ?Descartes? Evil Genius?. Bouwsma?s criticism focuses on Descartes? idea of an evil genius creating an ?illusory? world. His intent was to prove that Descartes? ideas of illusion and deception were misleading. First, Bouwsma set out to define ?illusions? and to show how they are detected. In order to accomplish this goal, he gave the example of the evil genius turning the world and everything in it into paper. In the passage we watches ?Tom? as he is exposed to and realizes the difference between the real world and the geniuses paper one. Although the evil genius attempted to create a realistic world out of paper, Tom saw through the illusion when he realized the difference between the paper flowers and real flowers. Tom was not really deceived by the paper illusion since he saw through it rather quickly, but he did ?experience? the illusion. He experienced it and he detected it. Bouwsma, with this example, is trying to point out the importance of how people detect illusions. For instance, Tom detects the illusion because he knows the difference between flowers and paper. If he did not know the difference, he would not be able to detect the illusion and he would go on being deceived. Bouwsma also states that it is critical that the genius also understand the difference between his illusion and reality even if Tom does not.
Bouwsma offer a sound and reasonable arguments, but he isn?t able to completely defeat skepticism. His argument was damaging to Descartes, but not destructive to the whole of skepticism. For example, Bouwsma makes an excellent case against the evil genius argument by suggesting that what the genius would consider illusion, people would consider reality. But it must be noted that while Bouwsma has made a valid suggestion, it does not prove that the evil genius does not exist. It is as impossible to prove that the evil genius doesn?t exist, as it is to prove that God does exist.
No one can prove or disprove the existence of an evil genius; they can only go so far as to say that it does not matter. He tried to prove that the existence of the evil genius would not make a difference in our lives. For this reason, I believe that although Bouwsma has made a valid point, but he only touched the surface of Descartes? argument. He has succeeded in proving that life is not meaningless, but that was not the purpose of Descartes? argument to begin with. All in all the two philosophers both have valid points to back there individual arguments but it is a matter of opinion on which one is right.

Baron d'Holbach and William James on Free Will and Determinism 8 of 10 on the basis of 1887 Review.