Analysis of Free Will: Determinism, Libertarianism and Compatibilism
Humans having free will is a major discussion in the philosophical world, multiple arguments, debates and thought experiments have been carried out determining whether there is a possibility to this or not. Determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism are all doctrines that have their different ideas and suggestions to the notion of humans having free will. To establish who is guilty for what in the sexual assault charge which has been brought against Hench and Silenus, the satyr, several factors have to be taken into consideration, such as, what a moral agent is, the meaning of the doctrines, whether we are responsible for our actions or not, whether the satyr is a moral agent etc. Both Hench and Silenus, the satyr have a role to play in this sexual assault, meaning they both hold some part of moral responsibility in this case.
Firstly, determinism is understood to be a doctrine that states that if something occurs, then there must necessarily be a cause. This basically means that every cause necessitates its effect and also every event, which also involves the action of humans are determined by causes. In hard determinism, we understand that there is universal ancestral causation and that if something is caused it can never be free (no free will). This statement is basically explaining that since human actions are always going to be caused no matter what and an agent is never going to have any options on what they do, we humans don’t have free will. Determinists then further go on to believing the incompatibility principle which states that causality and freedom are incompatible, meaning that you can’t really hold the view that your actions are made freely and also that the world is being ruled by cause and effect. This just further goes on to elucidate the deterministic view which states that everything is caused, so therefore, there is nothing like free will. In a deterministic point of view, there is an explanation for why everything happens the way it does, for example, my skin complexion, eye color, brain chemistry, hormones, genetics etc. These are the natural factors which are known to be pressures from the inside and an individual certainly has no control over meaning the individual is not responsible for these features being the way they are. Also, things such as your upbringing, rivalry between you and your siblings, the environment which you live in etc. These things are known as nurture (pressures from the outside). These are also (as the natural factors) attributes you can’t be held accountable for, so one doesn’t have any options in this matter. Free will is a delusion to most determinists and this leads them to say that we can’t be held accountable for anything since we cannot do otherwise (not having options). And because we can’t do otherwise there is no free will, proving there is a cause for everything we do and finally everything we do is strictly determined.
Secondly, libertarianism is the belief that some of the actions we humans make are free and also libertarians oppose the fact that there exists something known as universal causation. Libertarianism has two parts to it, which states if your act is free then it is not caused and also the fact that you must be capable of doing otherwise. Libertarians have explained and interpreted free actions as actions that have alternatives, meaning, when an individual is to do something e.g. eat, sleep, cry, play etc. he/she will have options in whether to do the action or something else. Libertarians need a way to justify their beliefs and one of the ways they do that is by stating the discrepancies between actions and events. Events are explained by libertarians to always have a cause and additionally, people can’t be held responsible for what they do. Actions, on the other hand, are understood in libertarianism to always have a reason, they are also done by rational agents and agents that are morally responsible (rational moral agents). Freedom and causality are incompatible forms of a libertarian perspective. The problem I believe most philosophers have with a libertarian’s point of view originates from a simple question “where free decisions would come from”. Then this leads to a series of other questions such as where it points out why an agent would make a decision he/she has made, Where the idea comes from, when is the decision made etc. If answers can be provided for each of these questions, subsequently I believe I can explain the motive or reason for an individual to perform a specific action. This point just further goes on to elucidate that actions are caused rather than them being free which just destroys the whole libertarian argument. So, it is difficult to present arguments which perfectly support the idea of libertarianism.
Thirdly, we compatibilists believe that the world operates in an orderly manner just like hard determinists. In traditional compatibilism, there is also the belief that our actions are still determined (universal causality) but also that some of the actions we humans make in our lifetime are really free, if and only if the decision of performing the particular action comes from within ourselves. For example, the difference between someone deliberately deciding to poke someone with a stick and someone accidentally poking someone with a stick. Clearly, the action is determined, meaning that in both examples stated above, the end result of someone being poked couldn’t be avoided. This further clarifies what we compatibilists are trying to explain and that is there is no such thing as an uncaused action. What to pay close attention to here is what the cause of the action is (kind of cause). Compatibilists explain that when the action of the individual is determined by causes that are from within ones’ self (internal causes), the action should be deemed as free. I also believe that since now some of our actions can be determined as free, that means we can have moral responsibility for these “free actions” because I have come to the understanding that some of our actions can come from within ourselves.
My particular brand of compatibilism might be a bit different from the traditional compatibilism talked about in the sense that I expatiate on the fact that if there is a cause for a particular action, for example, let’s say someone wants to steal, and this person then desires to steal, and then he/she actually carry out this act of stealing. I am now confident to say that this person is responsible for stealing because I understand a person to be responsible for their action if the action is in accordance with their desire and also whether or not what caused their desire is out of their control. So, my view as a compatibilist is entirely different from let’s say, that of the determinist because they believe that there is no free will whatsoever and I argue against that, due to my reasons stated above explaining the compatibilist point of view and also libertarians say that determinism is not possible which I clearly object due to some of the reasons given above and my example on someone poking another with a stick. The satyr, being a hard determinist still says, “I am not responsible for what I am” (TP 33), furthermore claiming that he is not responsible for being in existence and he is also not responsible for anything he has done because Hench is his creator.
The satyrs’ argument for not being responsible for what he does, fully rests on the point that he is the creation of another, meaning that he had no say in things such as what kind of brain he has or what sort of body he should have (natural factors) etc. Correspondingly, one of his other reasons not to be responsible for what he does is that he also had no say in what kind of environments he is put into and that these environments have somehow influenced the behaviors and actions which he exhibits. This finally builds up the satyr’s argument as a hard determinist because as stated in paragraph 2, natural factors and nurture factors play a major role in one’s actions, allowing it to already be determined. The satyr now builds upon the fact that he is not free because on any given occasion his actions can and will already be possibly determined due to these two factors. Basically, the Satyr’s chain of thought goes like this, since he is a creation of someone else then he can never do anything freely, therefore, he can never be responsible for anything he does (hard determinism).
From my compatibilist point of view, I would like to prove that the satyr is responsible for his actions and also that he is morally responsible for what he does. Now an individual that can be considered to be morally responsible should be able to do things we consider as “right” or “wrong”. Hench is definitely human so we automatically all assume that he is a rational moral agent. An individual is considered to be a rational moral agent when they have the ability to understand that every cause has an effect, along with when they are able to make predictions and furthermore should be able to draw causal inferences. Initially, Silenus the satyr, is not seen as a rational moral agent because he is not human but clearly in the text he is able to draw causal inferences on multiple occasions such as where the satyr reads the receptionists reactions “I could see the struggle going on behind her eyes” (TP 28) when he was talking to her in a very sexual manner. Another is when the satyr decided against chasing Merton’s receptionist because she would probably scream and that would bring Hench running “she would probably scream and bring Hench running” (TP 28). The last example is that the satyr is very aware that no one wanted to colonize Merton’s planet because it is a very inhuman place to work, “You’re sending me to the salt mines! You’re inhuman Hench” (TP 29). These examples clearly show that the satyr is not only able to draw causal inferences but also to make predictions (if I do this that might happen). I have then deduced through my explanation that the satyr can be held responsible for his actions because he is a rational moral agent.
In reality, isn’t the satyr-like a robot in the sense that they were both created similarly, the satyr and the robot were both created in a lab, they both have creators that know the internal workings (natural factors) of each of them, they were both put in specific environments (nurture factors) in which to function. Then the question that is raised is, why the satyr would be held responsible for his actions but not the robot and one of the answers is because of the difference in the degree of complexity. The degree of complexity explains how complicated their internal makeup is and clarifies how it limits them to do certain things. Thus, the satyr can act on its own, make decisions e.g. whether to rape Audrey Merton or not so we would say that the satyr’s degree of complexity is higher than the robots because the robot can’t do that and furthermore it can also easily be controlled by the inventor (turned on or off). The robot, for example, cannot be a rational moral agent and cannot be held morally responsible for its actions because it does not have the ability to make predictions on its own or draw causal inferences by itself. I say that to be responsible for an action means to be in control of the action. Also, I explained that to be responsible for an action it must be in accordance with your desire and robots don’t have the desire.
Hench agreed that Silenus is determined, meaning that he agreed that Silenus had no free will because he couldn’t do otherwise and so he couldn’t be accountable for anything. That’s why Hench felt responsible for Silenus and his actions, “I’m responsible for everything he is including that” (TP 32). When he said “that” he is referring to the satyr’s sexual urges and displays in public. He felt responsible for everything because even the sexual urges were his own doing by giving him the extra Y chromosome. But towards the end of the story, Hench changed his mind when the satyr told him “I am not responsible for the way I am” (TP 33) he replied, “you are responsible for what you do” (TP 33). In this particular discussion hench insisted that although Silenus, the satyr, is not responsible for his genetic makeup (natural factors) and also his current environment (nurture factors), he is nonetheless responsible for the actions he commits when he decides that those actions are the “basis of his desires” (TP 37). Hench also basically implied that Silenus, the satyr doesn’t have to be responsible for his natural factors e.g. his genetic makeup to be responsible for his actions. As a compatibilist, I believe that Silenus, the satyr needs to understand that taking responsibility for an action requires him to be in control of it fully, but that doesn’t in any way mean that he must have control over what resulted to it.
As an expert witness in this sexual assault case which Audrey Merton has brought against both Silenus, the Satyr and her fiancé, Hench, I conclude by saying that Silenus, the satyr is actually instigated by his genetic makeup and also the environment in which he lives, and Hench is responsible for this natural and nurture factors which influences the satyr in some way, but Silenus is still evidently responsible for the rape of Audrey Merton. I say this because Silenus, the satyr is a rational moral agent. Lastly, he is responsible for what he did because he desired for it to occur and carried out the action, “No one will interrupt. We may do as we wish, as you have always wished” and that’s when Hench realized that he could act freely without the influence of his internal or external makeup. You are responsible for what you do if your desire for it causes it to occur.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below