The choices we make in life all depend on the situation we are in. Choices like choosing to go outside on a sunny day or eating ice cream on a rainy day. We are entitled to decide what we want to do without being forced. Some people would think otherwise. Others would object to the view of a hard-determinist in saying that there is no free will in our decisions. Whether we believe Free Will and Determinism are similar or not, there are arguments for each one. Free will is allowing yourself to choose without having a doubt. Determinism is already decided on the choice you are to make with no freedom. I will attack the view of a hard-determinist because in the actions we perform free will and determinism apply in any situation given. Nagel is wrong for deciding that free will and determinism don’t apply to a situation together. I will argue that our actions can be the cause of free will and determinism with our emotions. Feelings are what make us do the things we do in our lives. Though our emotions can be determined, we can still take action freely. The choices that are determined beforehand are still free because it’s up to us to do them.
The author holds the view that both free will and determinism are not the same. He only sees that determinism can be wrong in situations and only free will applies, and vice versa. In the reading “Free Will” by Nagel, he demonstrates to the audience that if determinism were true in most situations then it would already be decided beforehand that you would perform a certain action in the future (pg. 183). The author sees that determinism can be right in some situations but not all where it matches the actions done with free will. Nagel used the example of choosing by choosing between a peach or chocolate cake for dessert. This demonstrates the free will of deciding to pick the chocolate cake without being impulsed to choose otherwise. If it was already determined for them to choose which specific dessert to eat then Nagel would say that they are not free.
Free Will and Determinism may have different meanings, our actions that we perform every day are determined by what we feel. Free will is choosing without having a doubt but we can still make a choice freely with emotions. Using the example from Nagel of choosing a chocolate cake over a peach, it could have been decided because that day, the presentation of the cake looked good. This would be a free choice because as they see the desserts, they would pick the chocolate cake because of the appealing sight which would trigger their emotions of choosing that. Nagel claims that determinism does not apply in the situation of choosing desserts or any situation that is done freely. I would disagree because we are able to determine in making the choice right then and there whether it is for the right or wrong reason. Nagel states in his reading, “Some think that if determinism is true, no one can reasonably be praised or blamed for anything…” (pg.184). Like in the example Nagel uses, determinism is true because before walking into the cafeteria and seeing the sight of the chocolate cake, it would be determined at that moment to pick that one. No one necessarily pushed them to choose the cake except for the person themselves. When the next day comes that person would feel they gained more because of choosing the cake. It is technically their responsibility for the action the choice because it affected their weight the next day. Though a person shouldn’t be blamed for picking the cake because of its presentation.
Though I believe that Free Will and Determinism are similar in any decisions we make in life, Nagel would disagree. His view shows that no action is done freely if we are forced to do something. If we choose to do something freely without having doubt then it would demonstrate that we are capable of performing actions with no reasoning behind it. As if we were to make our decisions ahead of time then determinism would be the reasoning of the actions performed. I claimed that our emotions are what cause us to make the decisions we choose in life. Though Nagel would disagree because he believes the choices we already have determined come from our past experiences. Nagel states, “If I thought that everything I did was determined by my circumstances and psychological condition, I would feel trapped.” (pg.185). In this case, it’d make sense because we all make our own choices and if we are forced to do something that isn’t under our liking then it wouldn’t be considered free will. If we are forced to do a certain action to meet another person’s satisfaction, it would not be our responsibility because we are being told to do so. As if it was an action that is free, it would be their responsibility.
I understand the views of how Nagel believes that free will and determinism are not similar and only one can be right in a situation. In response to the rejection, I still believe that both are the causes of what actions we do. Our emotions can be determined because of our past experiences but the feelings we have when we approach a certain situation and act free, we would be responsible for that action. It is understood that both free will and determinism can not apply to one situation but there are other cases where they both can apply. In the author reading “Free Will”, he states that “You believe that you determined what you would do, by doing it.” (pg. 184). We can go outside to get fresh air because we are free to make that choice of going out. Also, it can be determined as we’re standing outside that it relieves us from being in a house for too long. The actions we do can be done free and later be determined.
Philosopher Thomas Nagel tells the audience that determinism can only be the cause of an action that is not done freely. To my understanding, he doesn’t think free will and determinism are not quite similar. In the case of whether or not everyone else would agree, I believe in the actions we perform are caused by the act of free will and determinism. I have argued that Nagel is wrong for thinking free will and determinism cannot apply to one situation. First, I pointed out how the choices we make can come from our feelings. I also argued that our choice of action is made without a doubt, it can still later be processed determining whether that action was for the right or wrong reasoning. Second, I was able to demonstrate that the choices we choose to do in life are responsibilities of our own. It would be given that if our action consisted of free will and determinism, it would be our own responsibility for taking that certain action. Thirdly, I presented an objection to my own argument stating that Nagel would definitely disagree because if our actions are free and determined at the same time, it would feel as if we were trapped from allowing ourselves to explore more. In response to the objection, I still seek to believe our choices are destined by what our emotions are whether it’s acted freely or not. Free Will and Determinism are alike since our actions are based on what we believe is right and it can be done freely.
- Nagel, Thomas. “Free Will .” Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology, edited by Steven M Cahn, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 181–188.