Free Will or Determinism?


Some philosophers have wondered whether people have free will (the ability that man is able to make decisions on his own will) or determinism (that man is not able to make his own decisions and that everything is determined by environment and heredity). This debate has gone on for centuries with neither side of the argument winning. In this

paper, I will support determinism, that we don’t have any free will and that everything is determined by environment and heredity.

Let me get more in-depth with environment. When I talk about environment, I'm talking about a person's surroundings and all their experiences in life (everything this person feels, hears, sees, tastes and learns) from birth to death. Environment involves everything that influences this person’s life, whether good or bad. Environment includes morals, education, religion or one's beliefs, politics, history, love and etc. The list would go on if I didn't stop it at there. Environment has to be one of the most important influences to a person's life. Heredity is the traits that a person receives from their parents. Two people can have the same environments but be different because of heredity. Environment (working with heredity) can determine whether a person becomes good or bad.

Let’s say that a man is walking down a dark street when he sees an old lady getting robbed by a masked man. He can either decide to help her or just walk away. Which decision would this man pick? I would say that his decision would be based on his environment and his heredity. If he had nothing but a good environment and a good heredity, he would have good morals. This man would believe that it would be immoral if he didn't help this old lady out. A person who had nothing but a bad environment and a bad heredity would probably just walk away and not help the old lady. This man would not care about some random old lady. How someone was raised makes a big difference in their life and decision making. A person who was raised in an environment that consisted of nothing but positive influences such as love and happiness would grow up to be a good man. A person who was raised in an environment that consisted of nothing but negative influences such as murder, theft, and lying would grow up to be an evil man.

Someone might argue that a person who has a good environment does something bad like steals. I would argue that they are wrong; this person must have had some bad environment and/or bad heredity. A person can not have an environment that is all good. In my previous example, I brought up the conditions that they were raised in "nothing but" good or bad environments (and/or heredity). For an environment to be only good, the man could have never seen or heard a bad deed, met a bad person, or did an act that was bad. Of course there is no such place that only consists of only good or only bad influences.

Someone might argue about twins; how one twin is good and the other one being evil when they were born in same environment and heredity. I would argue that they must not have the same environment. They might have the same parents who raised them the same way, to be good people but each child will meet different people and have different life experiences. One child might meet someone that is evil, who teaches them evil things. This person might make this child evil. The other twin might never meet a single evil person and live their life being a good person or meets someone bad but doesn't turn bad because their good environment overcomes the bad influences.

There is no such environment which only consists of only good or only bad. Everyone’s environments are mixed because there will always be some bad influences for a person who has a good environment and vice versa. Also there is no such thing as two people having the same environment. Even twins (from the previous example) don't have the same environments.

Now to completely persuade you to determinism, I will now discredit free will. People who claim that everyone has free will believe men are able to make their own decision, without influences from anything else. People that believe in free will believe every man is responsible for his actions. I would have to disagree with this. What about a man who has a mental disorder and he kills someone? What if there was a chemical imbalance in this murder's mind? What if medication could help this person become a "normal" person, should he still go to jail or get the death penalty? I would say no, this person really wasn't "himself". His condition or disease might have impaired him from making the right decisions. Since he wasn't making the decision, he shouldn’t be penalized for his actions.

A person who believes in free will would say that man is free to act as he chooses to act but what makes him choose? People that believe in free will would say that the will is something independent from this man. I will prove that this free will is not actually free; that it is influenced by environment and heredity. Let’s say a soldier is given a mission to kill everyone in the enemy’s camp. When he comes upon the camp, it only consists of women and children who are unarmed. Does he kill the women and children? He has to decide whether or not he will fire. He does this by reasoning and his feelings. He wants to fire because he doesn't want to disobey a direct order from a superior officer. He knows that he can get kicked out of the military and/or be imprisoned. But these women and children are people, just like him. He has a family too and he knows how he'd feel if he lost one of his family members. He feels that it would be inhuman to kill these defenseless people. His will is free to decide. He can either shoot the women and children or disobey an order and not kill them. How will he decide? If we knew the man, we might be able to make an educated guess on what his decision would be. If he was indifferent to death or killing, he would obey his commands and shoot the women and children (for this example, we will say that this man is a killer). If he cared about lives of his own and other people’s and couldn’t turn a fly (especially women and children), he would disobey his commands and not shoot the women and children (for this example, we will say that this man is a humanitarian). In both situations, their wills are free but something outside the wills that must be making the difference. The “killer” in the above situation would kill because he is indifferent to death. The “humanitarian” would not kill because he couldn’t hurt anyone. But what makes someone a “killer” and someone a “humanitarian”? It would be a person’s natural predisposition (or heredity) and training (or environment). The “killer” might have been taught throughout his life that killing is good and nothing is wrong with killing people; the “humanitarian” was probably raised to not harm anyone or anything and taught that killing people would be inhuman. The “killer” is a killer because of heredity and environment. The “humanitarian” is a humanitarian because of his heredity and environment. This would mean that this so called “free will” is actually controlled by environment and heredity.

I will bring up another example to further my claims that free will is controlled by environment and heredity. A man has a decision to make, either donate his money to charity or keep it all for him. If he gave it to charity, it would used to help build a hospital where thousands of people will be helped. If he kept the money to himself, he would squander it on games. He loves to play games because it is fun to him but he donates the money to the charity. Why did he do this? His sense of duty to help is greater than his wishes to have fun. His sense of duty to help is due to nature (or heredity); but it is mostly due to environment. He was taught that helping people is good (teaching is part of his environment). This man is free to decide on either choice, but he chooses to do what he was taught instead of doing what he ought to do. People say that man is free to make his own decisions but he is really only free to make a decision based on his heredity and environment.

So through this paper, I proved that everything in life (acts, knowledge, decisions, etc.) is caused by environment and heredity (determinism). I have proved that man can only be good or bad as heredity (or temperament) and environment (or training) causes him to act (whether it is good or bad). I hope that after reading my argument, you see everything we do in life is caused by environment and heredity and not by “free will”.

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