Essay on Soft Determinism

Essay on Soft Determinism

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Soft Determinism


Determinism currently takes two related forms: hard determinism and soft determinism [1][1]. Hard determinism claims that the human personality is subject to, and a product of, natural forces. All of our choices can be accounted for by reference to environmental, social, cultural, physiological and hereditary (biological) causes. Our total character is a product of these environmental, social, cultural, physiological and hereditary forces, thus our beliefs, desires, values and habits are all outside of our control. The hard determinist, therefore, claims that our choices are determined by these factors; free will is an illusion because the choices and decisions we make are derived from our character, which is completely out of our control in creating. An example might help illustrate this point. Consider a man who has just repeatedly stabbed another man outside of a bar; the other man is dead. The hard determinist would argue that there were factors outside of the killer’s control which led him to this action. As a child, he was constantly beaten by his father and was the object of ridicule and contempt of his classmates. This trend of hard luck would continue all his life. Coupled with the fact that he has a gene that has been identified with male aggression, he could not control himself when he pulled the knife out and started stabbing the other man. All this aggression, and all this history were the determinate cause of his action.

Soft determinism touts itself as a looser form of determinism; it maintains that a modicum of freedom can exist within determinism. For the soft determinist, the personality or character of the agent is still derived from environmental, social, cultural, physiological and hereditary factors. The agent’s actions are still a result of this character. However, the soft determinist maintains that we are free because freedom is not a freedom from all causes but is a freedom from some causes. One might argue that there was no compulsion in the action of the killer; he knows the consequences of his actions and is aware that murder is wrong. If someone held a gun to his head and told him to stab the other individual, we could not rightly state that his actions were free if there is some external compulsion. His personality is created within a context that instills certain societal values and norms of behavior...


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...cal or intellectual need. If this were so, she would not have conceived of herself as spiritually lacking. It is only in reflecting on her present condition that she may then understand herself as spiritually deficient; through this present understanding of herself she is able to negate her present situation by turning her attention towards fulfilling this need, giving her action of fasting meaning. That is, the cause of her act of fasting is not derived from some past or present determinate but rather is derived from a future possibility which is presently non-existent. In contrast, the suffering (i.e., hunger) of a depressed person is (usually) a result of that depression; the suffering just happens to the person. The suffering the depressed person is feeling is only a cause of the lack of active sustenance, and thus the suffering is not valued in and of itself by the individual. Our choices and actions, therefore, gain purpose because we reflect upon ourselves and conceive not only who we were and who we are, but who we desire to be. It is because we can actively respond to this self-conception and self-projection that we have free will and our lives are, in turn, meaningful.

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