Compatabilists Vs Incompatibilism

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Perhaps one of the most fiercely contested battlefields in philosophy is that of free will and its compatibility with determinism; it is not just a captivating debate, but also one that has potentially such a far-reaching consequence on our existence. The two camps are the Incompatibilists, whom I shall mainly focus on, and the Compatabilists, who believe that free will and determinism are incompatible and compatible respectively. We can see how far reaching the consequences of this argument are by examining what is at stake. For an agent to have moral culpability, it is generally regarded that they need to have had some choice. If a chef was to serve bad food to a customer, causing the customer to become unwell, we may usually blame the chef. However, if the food was discovered to be infected before the chef received it and he had operated hygienically, we could not blame the chef; the food poisoning occurred via matters outside of his control. The Incompatibilist argument runs along the same lines, often employing the use of reductio arguments in an attempt to debunk the truth of determinism. The most popular line is to show that as a consequence of determinism, no agent could have ever acted in a different way. From this it leads on that as no one could have done otherwise, no one is responsible for any action. Even if the chef now knew prior to cooking the food that there was a good chance of infection, he would not be responsible. His decision to cook the food (along with every decision he or anyone else have made) is actually an illusion; he is as culpable for the infection as that of a light particle for deciding to hit my retina. It would be phenomenologically illogical to conclude that such a decision exists. Thus, at lea...

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... can re-define the phrase “could have done otherwise” to mean “could have done otherwise if the agent desired”. This definition makes the notion of alternate possibilities compatible with determinism, rather than the criticism used by the Incompatibilist. Additionally, if we use the concept of other possible worlds, we can allow ourselves freedom in the notion that in another world I may well have acted other than I have in this reality.
However, the Incompatibilist can argue that merely being able to act according to one’s desires does not allow enough freedom; we must be free to want what we want, a position that is ultimately incompatible with determinism. The use of alternate worlds is also unsatisfactory to the Incompatibilist, as surely it is irrelevant whether in another world I would have performed or refrained from action x, as only this world is relevant.

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