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Does Man Have Free Will?

Among the many issues in Ethics, the discourse on the justification of the existence of free will in man, is a more problematical matter as its being justified (or unjustified) is consequential for Ethics and Morality. If man is proven to have free will, there would be no dispute. Assuming, on the other hand, that we do not have free will would lead us to suggest that no individual may be held moral or immoral of his actions since no individual is liable for ones actions. Being so, discourse on goodness or wrongness of mans actions would lose relevance (De Castro 74). Walter Terence Stace, in his The Problem of Free Will, proves the endeavor on the justification or non-justification of the existence of free will in the same way. He assumes that a man acts only according to compulsion (Stace 215). In doing so, he argues that one cannot evaluate what man ought to do since he cannot be held responsible for his actions. Stace furthers, if a man has no freedom to choose what he will dothen it does not make sense to tell him that he ought not to have done what he did and that he ought to do something different (Stace 215). The burden now lies in the justification or non-justification of free will. In this light, I plan to proceed with a defense of the existence of free will by employing Staces arguments in and at the same time offering replies to prevalent criticisms and arguments which render free will non-existent. The justification of free will, according to Stace, may be employed by accepting two rudimentary claims: (1) that free will has been incorrectly defined, meaning, the problem on free will is semantic one; (2) and, that free will is compatible with Determinism. In support for the Staces first claim, I move to the definition of free will. On the definition of the word will, I deem that it is unacceptable to say that it is tantamount to the notion of choosing or to choose. For when an individual wills, it is an

expression not only of a cognitive process but also a drive to make the result of that cognitive process happen in reality. I leave such definition of will as it is, for it seems it is not here that the problem arises. Being free or Freedom, on the other hand, offers a more perplexing task since there are at least two distinct ways of defining it. In one light, it may be said that freedom is when an individual is granted to do as he wishes in the realm of what is possible by human capacity. On the other hand, it may also be defined as granting an individual to do as he wishes without whatsoever restraints; whether external or internal. Free will, then, may be defined as the expression of a cognitive process and a drive to make its result happen in reality. In one case, (1) the individual is granted to do as he wishes in the realm of what is possible by human capacity. In another, (2) the individual is granted to do as he wishes without external nor internal restraints. Being an empiricist, Stace would argue that the first definition of free will would be more acceptable than the second since such definition accords with common usage (Stace 216). Accordingly, a definition would be rendered worthless and unintelligible if it would only be understood only by a few as with the case where free will is defined by some in unintelligible and metaphysical terms. Enter Determinism. Determinism is a staunch critique to the existence of free will. It claims that actions are results of causes and are predictable beforehand (Stace 216). Sociologist and journalist, Robert Blatchford, in his The Delusion of Free Will, says that heredity and environment are the ultimate basis of mans choices and consequently, mans behavior (Blatchford 210). Such claim implies that man is already constrained by both external and internal factors. Needless to say, Determinism adheres to the second definition of free will.

Since, however, nothing would satisfy such definition, Determinism leads to say that there is no such thing as free will. Staces view and Blatchfords Deterministic stand differs primarily on eachs notion of freedom. Stace seems to admit that freedom is the mere capability to make choices independent of unnecessary kinds of compulsion. Specifically, Acts freely done are those whose immediate causes are psychological states in the agent. Acts not freely done are those whose immediate causes are states of affairs external to the agent (Stace 218). Contrary, Blatchford and Determinism equates that freedom must be absolute (absolute freedom); that kind of freedom without any form of constraint, internal or external; and since such is not possible, free will is impossible, so to speak. A reply and critique to the Determinist notion, however, would be addressed in Staces second rudimentary argument, where he says that Determinism is compatible with free will. This could be best supported by granting the Deterministic notion of heredity and environment as being constraints for the individual. In doing so, it seems that there is a need to emancipate ourselves from such constraints to endorse free will. However, ridding these constraints seems problematic since these are the very rudiments of a human person. Without heredity or environment, the individual would cease to exist and thus, there would be no point in the discussion of free will or any other intelligible argument at all. In this light, heredity and environment must be seen not as constraints but as rudiments which make the individual possible at all. In this sense, Determinism seems compatible with free will after all. With such arguments and criticisms, I claim that man, indeed, has free will.

Blatchford, Robert. The Delusion of Free Will. Doing Philosophy: An Introduction through thought experiments. 3rd Ed. Theodore Schlick Jr. and Lewis Vaughn. USA: Mc GrawHill, 2005. 210-214. Stace, William T. The problem of Free Will. Doing Philosophy: An Introduction through thought experiments. 3rd Ed. Theodore Schlick Jr. and Lewis Vaughn. USA: Mc GrawHill, 2005. 215-219. De Castro, Leonardo. Kalayaan, determinismo at pananagutan. Etika at Pilosopiya sa Kontekstong Pilipino. Philippines: UP Press, 1995. 73-102.

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