FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM: A DIALOGUE
Posted by: Write My Essay on: July 20, 2017
In Clifford Williams’ “Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue,” the characters Frederick and Carolyn disagree with the principle of free will. This conversation goes on long after the book and the characters, while being equally intelligent, intellectually honest, open minded and considerate, and while having an equally strong grasp of the philosophical issue, still can’t agree to the principles of free will.
Frederick believes that there is no free will under the assumption that everything that people do is the result of a cause. This means that if a ball moves, it is because someone threw it. Similarly, the actions of people are determined based on the situation in which they find themselves. For example, a person will end up being a doctor because the environment in which they were raised led them to that career. Similarly, actions that were carried out prior to a person’s birth means they will follow a course that is the result of happenings prior to their birth, and therefore they have no free will.
Carolyn, while believing that actions are the result of causes, also believes that there is free will to create new causes. For example, if a person is to become a doctor, it is because the way in which they were raised and the circumstances in which they were raised – but it is also a result of that person’s will.
The two characters, while supporting their arguments with profound persuasion, are equally as convincing as the other. And there isn’t really a solid answer that can be found. The reason they can’t agree is because Carolyn is attached to the idea of free will. She can’t get past the thought of not being in control of her destiny.
Frederick, on the other hand, can be considered more of an unbiased thinker: he is not limited by an attachment to his emotions, and lets what he believes to be logic guide his beliefs about the principles of free will.
Both of them are warranted to carry on believing the way in which they believe because both of them could be correct. While it is difficult to believe that a person couldn’t be in control of their destiny, it is also just as likely that the human brain – which is a computer – is programmed by the circumstances in which it was created. For example, a mother’s attitude towards her son determines the way in which he treats females. Also, the way a mother teaches her son depends on her experiences with men. The men behave towards the mother because of their experiences with women in their past, and so on.
Even though each character disagrees, they are both reasonable in their beliefs. However, neither one of them concedes that the other could be correct. While they listen to and consider the other’s opinion, they never tell them that they could very well be correct in what they are saying.
However, one could argue that the characters, given new life circumstances or general maturity or brain development, or brain retraction, could change their mind and side with the other. In fact, it is completely possible that they could switch positions altogether. If for example, Carolyn, as she continues her conversation with Frederick, goes through a series of misfortunes, where despite her greatest efforts, she couldn’t seem to get her life going the way she wants. This could cause her to see that everything is predetermined. She starts to believe that there is nothing she can do to change what is happening. Similarly, Frederick might believe that he is in control of his destiny if things start to change due to his effort. However, he may believe this change is a result of his upbringing, which would be a cause that has led him to exert effort in an attempt to create change.