Discussion Topic "Free Will vs Determinism"

Hello everyone, as you know every once in a while we do not read a selection for our meet up but we have a discussion topic and at the June 5th meet up we will at the Thinkers club take on the debate "Free Will vs Determinism"

The question of free will is one which has been hotly debated for millennia. Some people believe that humans have the capacity for free will - the ability to choose their actions without being forced to follow a certain course by either by the influence of others or by natural laws. For many theists, free will is regarded as a special gift from God. The notion of human free will is also an important premise for a lot of what happens in human society  in particular, when it comes to our legal system. Free will is necessary for the notion of personal responsibility. If people do not have free will, then it is difficult to argue that they are personally and morally responsible for their actions - and if that is the case, how can they be punished for their misdeeds? In fact, how can they be praised for the good things they do, if those actions were not also freely chosen?
Others, however, argue that if the universe itself is deterministic in nature, then human actions must also be deterministic - thus, modern determinism tends to be an outgrowth of modern science. If human actions simply follow the course of natural law, then it is difficult to hold that those actions can be "freely" chosen. Those who advocate determinism run into something of a contradiction, however, when they try to argue their point with those who argue for free will. If it is true that nothing is freely chosen, then those who believe in the existence of free will do not do so by choice - so what is the point of trying to convince them otherwise? Indeed, what is the point of trying to convince anyone of anything if all events are determined?
One thing to note about the debate between free will and determinism is that both terms tend to be defined in such a way as to explicitly exclude the other. But why must that be the case? The philosophical position of compatibilism argues that these concepts do not need to be defined in such a mutually exclusive manner and that; in fact, both free will and determinism can be compatible.
The problem of free will or determinism is slightly different for the theist. Instead of wondering if natural laws mean that human actions are all determined, the theist must also ask whether or not their god has pre-determined all events in the universe, including their own. If so, that will mean that their ultimate fate will be determined. This position was adopted most completely and explicitly by the Reform theologian John Calvin, who argued that some people are predestined to be saved and some are predestined to be damned, and there is nothing anyone can possibly do about it.

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  • H B.

    This is a notice that because of the number of people who have RSVP'd,I had to do some library magic. The meet-up is now in Meeting Room 1. If you don't know where it is, ask one of the friendly librarians.

    June 5, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I think we all have free will and I'm not sure what determinism really is!

    June 2, 2013

  • Fabienne

    Hello Mark, thank you for your messages. My question, I guess, has to do with the pertinence of asking Calvin to re-read his Bible, in the context of philosophical conversation. Correct me if I am mistaken, but it seems to me that such remarks, unless they are meant to be funny or sarcastic, should pertain to theological conversation. My question, in essence, is about how people in this group define philosophy. Thanks in advance for your input everyone. Looking forward to joining your group.

    May 31, 2013

    • Mark R. O.

      It depends who you ask. I like the definition, The love of wisdom. In this context philosophy encompasses everything and anything a person can consider.

      June 2, 2013

  • Fabienne

    Is this what this group intends as a philosophical conversation?

    May 31, 2013

    • Mark R. O.

      What would you like to discuss?

      May 31, 2013

  • Fabienne

    Ajouter un commentaire

    May 30, 2013

  • Karen C

    If you tend toward free will, you have a better chance of emotional balance because of the empowerment that gives you.
    Take a step back from that you will see determinism is where we live everyday.

    May 19, 2013

    • Karen C

      Denial of Free Will? Mark, I want to smack you! Current thinkers are going the other way, and I beat them to it. Why should we be the only species with free will. It's just belly button gazing.

      May 19, 2013

    • Mark R. O.

      No, denial that free will is only an illusion.

      May 19, 2013

  • john k.

    I think that Mr Calvin got it wrong, he needs to re-read his Bible.

    May 19, 2013

  • john k.

    no comment.

    May 6, 2013

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Rafaël

We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

Rafaël, started French Conversation Group

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