Free Will and Determinism of Ayer and Holbach

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Reconciling the Free Will and Determinism of Ayer and Holbach

In respect to the arguments of Ayer and Holbach, the dilemma of determinism and its compatibility with that of free will are found to be in question. Holbach makes a strong case for hard determinism in his System of Nature, in which he defines determinism to be a doctrine that everything and most importantly human actions are caused, and it follows that we are not free and therefore haven’t any moral responsibility in regard to our actions. For Ayer, a compatibilist believing that free will is compatible with determinism, it is the reconciliation and dissolution of the problem of determinism and moral responsibility with free willing that is argued. Ayer believes that this problem can be dissolved by the clarification of language usage and the clarification of what freedom is in relationship to those things that oppose freedom or restrain it. In either case, what is at stake is the free will of an agent, and whether or not that agent is morally responsible. What is to be seen from a discussion of these arguments is the applicability and validity of these two philosophies to situations where one must make a choice, and whether or not that person is acting freely and is thus responsible given his current situation. In this vein, the case of Socrates’ imprisonment and whether or not he acted freely in respect to his decision to leave or stay in prison can be evaluated by the discussion of the arguments presented in respect to the nature of free will in its reconciliation with determinism in the compatibilist vein and its absence in the causality of hard determinism.

For Holbach, the very heart of his argument in defense of hard determinism is that all ...

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...on, freedom of the will is needed to clarify that just because one’s actions are capable of being predicated, it does not follow that I am constrained to do one action or the other. If I am constrained though, my will is absent from the situation, for I really don’t want to give someone my money with a pistol to my head, and it follows my action is constrained and decided by external compulsion, rather than internal activity, or stated otherwise, that internal activity being free will, and thus free will is reconciled with determinism.

Works Cited

Holbach, Paul. “The Illusion of Free Will.” Feinberg and Shafer-Landau 462-467.

Ayer, A.J. “Freedom and Necessity.” Feinberg and Shafer-Landau 481-486.

Feinberg, Joel and Russ Shafer-Landau, eds. Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group, 2002.
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