The Existence of Free Will

The Existence of Free Will :

To determine whether a particular action was decided upon by an individual or whether the action was predetermined one must study its cause. In studying cause one finds that there are two types of causes those that are typified by natural laws, such as a dropped book falling to the ground and those typified by the moral considerations of men. This distinction is important because it shows both that no man can control his environment contrary to the laws of natural or scientific laws, but neither are his actions completely out of his control.

The first type of cause we can consider as accepted facts, these would be the natural and scientific laws that all objects must obey. It is obviously false to assume that a man may walk through a tree or fly like a bird, but these things can be factors in the set of causes leading to an action.

The second type of cause is more difficult to define. It is made up of the past experience and perceptions of men, but more importantly it are the way in which men use these things. This type of cause is arrived at differently in everyone, and it cannot be measured, predicted or understood as well as the other type. In fact it is often unable to be seen at all, but it must exist simply because the entire world or even the simple workings of one man's brain cannot be described completely using only the laws of nature. A complex moral decision is created in the mind of men by more than just a random or predictable set of electrical impulses, but by the not completely understood spiritual and psychological make-up of men. This type is the true cause of an action.

When one sees this combination of causes he must accept the idea of dualism. Dualism is the idea that there are two hemispheres of the universe, the physical, ordered and understood by science and the spiritual, abstract and not understood. The spiritual hemisphere is the force that guides actions that cannot be explained solely by physical causes. While the moralistic cause may have more weight in the type of action, it cannot ever defy natural laws. For this reason both radical determinism and free will seem impossible. With this description given, to determine the amount of free will that a thing has, it is only necessary to see how that thing uses or is affected by the two types of causes.

Let us first consider man. Man is obviously the creature for which this argument is designed principally. Man is affected by his physical surroundings and uses a complex cognitive system and a complicated set of morals to consider his actions. Man might first, upon seeing a picture, be stimulated neurologically by and use past experience to make a recognized pattern from the shapes seen. This would be the purely physical and determine reaction to the picture, but this would probably not be the total reaction. Man might use his knowledge to create opinions about the picture. He might experience an emotion in response to it. He might ultimately make judgments based on the opinions and emotions that in a way that is not scientifically ordered, understood or predictable. Man then, must have free will within the bounds of natural law.

The distinction is more difficult in the case of a dog. A dog quite obviously is affected by his physical surroundings, but can he use cognitive processes to make decisions beyond his instinctual drives? The answer to this question is yes, and no. A dog can rely on past experience and in the very simplistic ideas of rewards and punishments can determine right from wrong. This alone does not give a dog free will, he could still be bounded by his past experience and have little conscience effect on his decisions. However, as many dog owners know, dogs often do purely human things which show their ability to exert some level of control over their actions beyond the instinctual level. For example, a dog probably, on seeing his owner after being left alone for the day, would have the physical reaction of noting the presence of and recognizing the owner. The dog might connect the return of the owner with a filling of his food dish and anticipate it with hunger. These would be determined reactions set both by the instincts of the animal and his past experiences, however, the dog might also feel the emotion of anger towards the owner for having left him alone for the day, and act out against him to show his displeasure. This would be an example of the dog working outside of or even against his instincts and exerting some level of control over his actions. This leads one to believe that a dog does have a minimal amount of free will, again within the constraints of his physical environment.

Lastly it is less difficult to decide the amount of free will that a rock has. A rock is affected by its physical environment, but has no means of decision making in order to act on its own. It therefore is affected solely by its environment and has no free will.

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