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Levels of differences
Rocks, plants and animals, and humans
Freedom or choice seems to increase the further up the evolutionary scale you go.
Existentialism and human consciousness
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) argued that humans are confronted by freedom in that
consciousness “intends” and creates experience. We make “choices” in relation situations that
may be determined. For example, how we choose to live in relation to those things that may be
determined for us.
Conclusion: Soft determinism
Soft determinism appears as the best alternative. Freedom is limited by external factors of all
sorts. But we are free to choose or not choose how we respond to them, to act or not to act in
relation to them. Thus it makes sense to assign moral responsibility to human beings, to praise,
blame and reward them.
KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS
Compatibilism
Incompatibilism
Free Will
Determinism
Religious Predestination
Physical/Biological/Genetic Causality
Historical/Economic/Psychological Causality
Hard Determinism
Soft Determinism
Indeterminism
Fatalism
Responsibility
Chance
Accident
Destiny
ESSAY QUESTIONS
1. Did you use free will in answering this question? Critically examine the arguments for and
against.
2. Does everything have a cause? In your answer deal thoroughly with the question of moral
responsibility.
3. If God is all knowing there cannot be free will. Discuss.
4. Compatibilism or soft determinism is the view that free will and determinism are compatible.
Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this view.
5. Which position is the best here and on what grounds?
TRUE/FALSE
1. Determinism can be understood to mean that there is no uncaused event.
2. Religious determinism is the idea that our lives are predestined.
3. Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiments with human beings, getting them to salivate at the
sound of a bell.
4. B. F. Skinner based his behavioral theories on the groundbreaking work of Heisenberg.
5. Fatalism is the view that although things are fixed and predetermined your behavior still
makes a difference.
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