Determinism

Determinism is the view that there is no free choice, that all of man’s acts, his thinking, even, are determined. This view holds that men are mere robots and that there is no such thing as self-responsibility. The man who holds this view abdicates responsibility for achieving his own happiness. Properly speaking, it can’t be said that he “holds” a view. Words and concepts can have no meaning for him. He has put himself outside the human race. He is just an animal.

What does determinism do for the determinist? Since the determinist can have no values, no right or wrong choices, he places himself outside of morality and, while alleging to be scientific, is a pure subjectivist. Are there any happy determinists? No. Self-deceit and self-denial do not lead top happiness. A determinist is necessarily a miserable creature.

To determine means to settle or decide by choice of alternatives or possibilities. Determinism is the doctrine that choices are determined without choice. Determinism is a self-contradiction. Is there anything to gin by arguing with a determinist? Of course not. It is better to aver, “I choose not to argue with robots, since a robot has nothing meaningful to say.”

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6 Responses to Determinism

  1. Determinism is the belief (-ism) that objects and forces behave in a reliable, and thus theoretically predictable fashion. Free will is when a person decides for themselves what they will do, free of coercion or other undue influence. There is no natural opposition between these two concepts. For example, a person chooses option A, rather than option B, because option A satisfies his purpose and his reasons better than option B. His purpose and his reasons cause him to choose A rather than B. And anyone who knows how he thinks and feels well enough could predict that he would choose A. There is no conflict between the fact that (1) it was authentically his own choice and (2) his choice was predictable. The two facts are compatible.

  2. Absolutely wrong. A man’s purpose and reason do not cause him to choose to follow them. It is his choice, his will, which does. Which is why there are men who can know the truth and know what is right, yet still go against their knowledge. The fact that a man chooses to do what he knows to be right resides ultimitley in his own will. Determinism is out of the picture.

    • Well, yes, a person can choose to follow a bad desire rather than choose to do what he thinks is a more righteous thing. The two desires, to do what he feels like and to do what he knows is right, are his two options. The options are weighed according to his current values, and what he values most at the moment of choice will determine what he does next. For example, I used to smoke more than two packs a day. I tried to quit many times. But the desire to satisfy the craving outweighed my better judgment. Eventually, I was able to quit smoking long enough for the craving to diminish, and finally get control and quit. You learn during this process that it is not just a single decision, but a whole string of decisions you must make every day as you encounter all those situations in which you habitually lit up.

      But my choosing was deterministic at each point. Either the craving was stronger or my conviction that my life would be better without cigarettes was stronger (I had seen the news stories of rules in California outlawing smoking at the work place and decided I had better get the job done now before those rules got to the East Coast, as they surely did).

      My point is that determinism and free will are compatible. (a) The thoughts and feelings going into my choice were authentically my own and (b) the thoughts and feelings at that moment made my choice at that point inevitable.

  3. Marvin, I still disagree. To say that whatever choice you made was determined contradicts the fact of choosing altogether, nor does it explain anything. You could have chosen not to smoke the very first time you decided it would be right to quit, but instead, you chose to follow your feelings and not your judgment. Now THAT can be explained by noting that you regard feelings as more important than reason—which is a definite explanation of why you chose as you did (and I don’t mean this as a personal attack on you), but determinism explains nothing, it is a dead end, or, at best, allows for excuses in a man’s behavior.

    • Okay. Understood. And I agree that determinism doesn’t actually explain anything. All of the utility of reliable cause and effect comes from knowing the specific causes of specific effects. The fact of universal inevitability is useless, and has caused a lot of unnecessary confusion and mental errors. The only rational thing one can do is to acknowledge it and then ignore it, which is what most people do anyway.

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