I wrote this essay for one of my introductory philosophy classes. Because I haven’t written on my blog in a long while, I thought I would post it here, so I could show you what I have been working on while I haven’t had the time to post more intimate stuff.
Determinism is a claim that the world and everything within it is governed by the forces of nature, impossible to prevent and operating under very strict rules and guidelines. Hard determinists believe that the future is already planned because of the actions and experiences that preceded it. It even makes sense within a deterministic world bereft of free will that the future could one day be predicted before it has even happened. Through physics and particles, the way they behave with one another two hydrogen and one oxygen will always make water, so why can’t we extrapolate this further. Simplistically put, if you have only the ingredients for a cake, you will always end up with a cake, never a roast. Compatibilists argue that though determinism may be true, that it does not necessarily mean that there is no such thing as free will or moral responsibility. They believe that there is an element of free will when making decisions, that what we choose is an actual choice and that as free agents we make decisions to avoid or enhance possible outcomes by ourselves, even if the choices we make could possibly be predicted. The choices themselves are the acts of free will, living in the truth that we could have made a different decision than the one that has or will be made. I believe that compatibilism is the more sound argument when taking into account human nature, but I would also go further in arguing against purist hard determinism with the application of the idea of inductive reasoning.
Inductive reasoning is a method of understanding the world around us. There are typically two ways in which we can construct an argument, one with deductive reasoning and two with inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning requires two things, for the premise of the argument to be true, and according to Law (2003, p. 153) ‘that the premises must logically entail the conclusion’ to avoid contradiction. Deductive reasoning therefore is a hard fact, something that exists in and of itself as indisputable. Inductive reasoning works the other way around, instead of the initial argument containing the answer within itself, inductive reasoning is when evidence of past outcomes is used to support the argument but is not part of the argument itself. Inductive reasoning is not a fact in the way deductive reasoning is, but is a belief and assumption that because something has happened before it will continue to happen in exactly the same manner in the future. This is in itself dangerous, but we use it everyday. The human mind cannot function on the premise that everything we do and know is only an assumption. Determinism which usually likes to base itself in science, believes that everything is mechanised and that there is a particular way for a particular thing to happen because of the uniformity of nature. This is almost completely undermined when you take into account that most of the science and ‘truth’ it bases itself on, is an assumption according to inductive reasoning.
Hard determinism claims that, down to a molecular level, everything is a part of causality, that ‘everything that happens is determined by prior causes’ (Horner & Westacott 2000, p. 2). This includes the joining of atoms, how our bodies react to different kinds of stimuli and even the way we look at the world based on where we are raised and the society we live in. It is this relationship that we have with causality that allows us to believe that because A happened, B must now happen. Put another way, for us to arrive at B necessitates the existence of A, and that in turn supposes that A will always cause B. This is known as the ‘causal principle’ and rules most of determinism. The problem with this idea is that if we take into account inductive reasoning, then just because A happened to cause B once, or even a thousand times, does not mean that one day A might not cause C instead. According to inductive reasoning the whole basis of the argument that B happens after A is assumed. Just because it has happened before does not give us a sound enough reason to assume that someday it won’t change.
Even though induction does cause problems for determinism, the fact that we live our lives despite much of our knowledge being based assumption could still possibly validate determinism. The fact that we move forward and make decisions one way or the other does mean that much of the time we are still a product of these decisions, and that everything we do, at least so far, follows with the traditional sense of causality. This inability to function without believing in the patterns we see everyday and taking them for fact, could in itself still mean that determinism is real. In this way I believe compatibilism to be the most logical way in which to view the world, to understand that we do have free will in a sense and that the flaws that underline determinism can also be used in understanding and validating why it is still applicable. In the modern understanding of scientific induction Vickers (2014) says that it is important to know ‘how to distinguish good inductions from bad ones’, which can make all the difference in understanding and applying reasoning to our world full of induction. Just because something is the product of inductive reasoning, doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, it just means that there is no other way for it to be proved otherwise.
Determinism in the beginning does seem to be irrefutable, when we look at the world around us and see so many patterns and repetitions in nature we can understand why it would be possible for nature to be uniform and follow the proposed strict rules of causality. The reality is that although we see these patterns most of what determinism is based on, if it is to be based on causal relationships, is based not on fact but on assumptions derived from inductive reasoning. Nature is not completely uniform, so even though we may see these causal relationships and happenings, determinism is not as sound as it could be. This supports the idea of compatibilism, that although these causal relationships surround us and control a lot of what we do, free will and moral responsibility are still very real and a part of our daily lives.