Custom papers academic service


The principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay

Most of the ancient thinkers on the problem were trying to show that we humans have control over our decisions, that our actions "depend on us"and that they are not pre-determined by fate, by arbitrary gods, by logical necessity, or by a natural causal determinism. Almost everything written about free will to date has been verbal debate about the precise meaning of philosophical concepts like causalitynecessityand other dogmas of determinism.

The "problem of free will" is often described as a question of reconciling "free will" with one or more of the many kinds of determinism. As a result, the "problem of free will" depends on two things, the exact definition of free will and which of the determinisms is being reconciled.

There is also an even more difficult reconciliation for " libertarian " free will. How can a morally responsible will be reconciled with indeterminism or chance? The standard argument against free will is that it can not possibly be reconciled with either randomness or determinism, and that these two exhaust the logical possibilities.

  • Many compatibilists accept the view of a causal chain of events going back indefinitely in time, consistent with the laws of nature, with the plan of an omniscient God, or with other determinisms;
  • Metaphysics, Book V, 1025a25 2a It is obvious that there are principles and causes which are generable and destructible apart from the actual processes of generation and destruction; for if this is not true, everything will be of necessity;
  • Some argue that without causality knowledge would be impossible, since we could not be sure of our reasoning process and deduced truths.

Before there was anything called philosophy, religious accounts of man's fate explored the degree of human freedom permitted by superhuman gods.

Creation myths often end in adventures of the first humans clearly making choices and being held responsible. But a strong fatalism is present in those tales that foretell the future, based on the idea that the gods have foreknowledge of future events.

Anxious not to annoy the gods, the myth-makers rarely challenge the implausible view that the gods' foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom.

This was an early form of today's compatibilismthe idea that causal determinism and logical necessity are compatible with free will. The first thinkers to look for causes in natural phenomena rather than gods controlling events were the Greek physiologoi or cosmologists.

Heraclitus, the philosopher of change, agreed that there were laws or rules the logos behind all the change. The early cosmologists' intuition that their laws could produce an ordered cosmos out of chaos was prescient. Our current model of the universe begins with a state of minimal information and maximum disorder. The physiologoi transformed pre-philosophical arguments about gods controlling the human will into arguments about pre-existing causes controlling it. The cosmological problem became a psychological problem.

Some saw a causal chain of events leading back to a first cause later taken by many religious thinkers to be God. Other physiologoi held that although all physical events caused, mental events might not.

If the mind or soul is a substance different from matter, it could have its own laws different from the laws of nature for material bodies. The materialist philosophers Democritus and Leucippus, again with extraordinary prescience, claimed that all things, including humans, were made of atoms in a void, with individual atomic motions strictly controlled by causal laws.

The principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay

Democritus wanted to wrest control of man's fate from arbitrary gods and make us more responsible for our actions. But ironically, he and Leucippus originated two of the great dogmas of determinismphysical determinism and logical necessitywhich lead directly to the modern problem of free will and determinism. Leucippus stated the first dogma, an absolute necessity which left no room in the cosmos for chance. Some even argued for a great cycle of events an idea borrowed from Middle Eastern sources repeating themselves over thousands of years.

The Pythagoreans, Socrates, and Plato attempted to reconcile an element of human freedom with material determinism and causal law, in order to hold man responsible for his actions. The first major philosopher to argue convincingly for some indeterminism was probably Aristotle.

  1. So Epicurus' intuition of a fundamental randomness was correct.
  2. Laplace disliked the disreputable origins of this theory and renamed it the "calculus of probabilities. But a strong fatalism is present in those tales that foretell the future, based on the idea that the gods have foreknowledge of future events.
  3. Free will at best was compatible with determinism in the sense that our will caused our actions, even though the willed action was the consequence of prior causes.
  4. Both argued that human freedom was compatible with divine foreknowledge, using sophisticated arguments originally proposed by Augustine, that God's knowing was outside of time, arguments used again later in the Renaissance and by Immanuel Kant in the Enlightenment.

First he described a causal chain back to a prime mover or first cause, and he elaborated the four possible causes material, efficient, formal, and final. Aristotle did not subscribe to the simplistic "every event has a single cause" idea that was to come later. He noted that the early physicists had found no place for chance among their causes.

Aristotle opposed his accidental chance to necessity: Metaphysics, Book V, 1025a25 2a It is obvious that there are principles and causes which are generable and destructible apart from the actual processes of generation and destruction; for if this is not true, everything will be of necessity: Will this be, or not?

Yes, if this happens; otherwise not. He knew that many of our decisions are quite predictable based on habit and character, but they are no less free nor are we less responsible if our character itself and our predictable habits were developed freely in the past and are changeable in the future. This is the view of some Eastern philosophies and religions. Our Karma has been determined by our past actions even from past livesand strongly influences our current actions, but we are free to improve our The principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay by good actions.

One generation after Aristotle, Epicurus argued that as atoms move through the void, there are occasions when they "swerve" from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. Epicurus argued that these swerves would allow us to be more responsible for our actions, something impossible if every action was deterministically caused.

For Epicurus, the occasional interventions of arbitrary gods would be preferable to strict determinism. Epicurus did not say the swerve was directly involved in decisions. His critics, ancient and modern, have claimed mistakenly that Epicurus did assume "one swerve - one decision. Parenthetically, we now know that atoms do not occasionally swerve, they move unpredictably whenever they are in close contact with other atoms. Everything in the material universe is made of atoms in unstoppable perpetual motion.

Deterministic paths are only the case for very large objects, where the statistical laws of atomic physics average to become nearly certain dynamical laws for billiard balls and planets. So Epicurus' intuition of a fundamental randomness was correct. We know Epicurus' work largely from the Roman Lucretius and his friend Cicero.

The principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay

Lucretius saw the randomness as enabling free will, even if he could not explain how beyond the fact that random swerves would break the causal chain of determinism. Most of the extensive Stoic writings are lost, probably because their doctrine of fate, which identified God with Nature, was considered anathema to the Christian church.

The church agreed that the laws of God were the laws of Nature, but that God and Nature were two different entities. In either case strict determinism follows by universal Reason logos from an omnipotent God. Stoic virtue called for men to resist futile passions like anger and envy.

The fine Stoic morality that all men including slaves and women were equal children of God coincided with or was adopted by the church. Stoic logic and physics freed those fields from ancient superstitions, but strengthened the dogmas of determinism that dominate modern science and philosophy, especially when they explicitly denied Aristotle's chance as a cause. Like Democritus, Aristotle, and Epicurus before him, he wanted to strengthen the argument for moral responsibilityin particular defending it from Aristotle's and Epicurus's indeterminate chance causes.

Whereas the past is unchangeable, Chrysippus argued that some future events that are possible do not occur by necessity from past external factors alone, but might depend on us. We have a choice to assent or not to assent to an action. Chrysippus said our actions are determined in part by ourselves as causes and fated because of God's foreknowledgebut he also said correctly that they are not necessitated.

Chrysippus would be seen today as a compatibilistas was the Stoic Epictetus. Alexander defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today.

Greek philosophy had no precise term for "free will" as did Latin liberum arbitrium or libera voluntas. Alexander believed that Aristotle was not a strict determinist like the Stoics, and Alexander himself argued that some events do not have predetermined causes.

In particular, man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something. Alexander denied the foreknowledge of events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature. Actions caused by chance are simply random and we cannot feel responsible for them. But we do feel responsible. Despite more than twenty-three centuries of philosophizing, most modern thinkers have not moved significantly beyond this core problem of randomness and free will for libertarians - the confused idea that free actions are caused directly by a random event.

Caught between the horns of a dilemma, with determinism on one side and randomness on the other, the standard argument against free will continues to render human freedom unintelligible. A couple of centuries after Alexander, a subtle argument for free will was favored by early Christian theologians. They wanted human free will in order to absolve an omnipotent God of responsibility for evil actions.

This is called the problem of evil. Those who held God to be omniscient, Augustine for example, maintained that God's foreknowledge was compatible with human freedom, an illogical position still held today by most theologians. His more sensible contemporary, the British monk Pelagius Morgan held, with Cicero, that human freedom prohibited divine foreknowledge. The success of Augustine's ideas led the church to judge Pelagius a heretic. Because they used Reason, instead of accepting traditional views based on faith and scripture alone, they were called moderns.

Thomas Aquinas maintained that man was free but also held there was a divine necessity in God's omniscience, that God himself was ruled by laws of Reason. Dun Scotus took the opposite view, that God's own freedom demanded that God's actions not be necessitated, even by Reason.

Both argued that human freedom was compatible with divine foreknowledge, using sophisticated arguments originally proposed by Augustine, that God's knowing was outside of time, arguments used again later in the Renaissance and by Immanuel Kant in the Enlightenment. Luther's was frankly called "The Bondage of the Will.

They were called modern because they tried to use Reason to establish the certainty of Truth including Religion. Descartes found the realm of human freedom in the Mind, which he thought was a separate substance from the material Body. It involves an uncaused causewhich Spinoza felt was impossible.

Spinoza's freedom was compatible with necessity. They debated Liberty and Necessity circa 1650. Hobbes held that liberty was simply the absence of external impediments to action, because the voluntary actions of a "free will" all have prior necessary causes and are thus determined. He equated necessity to the decree of God. The British empiricist philosophers - George Berkeley 20John Locke 21and David Hume - essentially all found chance or indeterminism unacceptable.

Determinism was obviously required for us to be responsible for our actions. Hume, a modern Skeptic, doubted the existence of certain knowledge and questioned causality, but he thought correctly, if inconsistently that our actions proceeded from causes in our character.

Free will at best was compatible with determinism in the sense that our will caused our actions, the principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay though the willed action was the consequence of prior causes. An uncaused cause the " causa sui " or self-causeor a free action generated randomly with no regard for earlier conditions "sui generis" or self-generatedwas considered absurd and unintelligible. Hume said "'tis impossible to admit of any medium betwixt chance and an absolute necessity.

He thought it was inappropriate to describe the Will itself as Free. The Will is a Determination. It is the Man who is Free. Isaac Newton 's mathematical theory of motion classical mechanics could predict the motions of all things based on knowledge of their starting points, their velocities, and the forces between them. Leibniz imagined a scientist who could see the events of all times, just as all times are thought to be present to the mind of God.

One might naively think that the development of modern probability theory and statistics would have encouraged acceptance of chance in human affairs, but surprisingly, the major theorists of probability the principles and limitations of humean naturalism and compatibilism essay determinists.