Religion & Theology Essay: Are Human Beings Free? (Essay Sample)
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Are Human Beings Free?
Introduction: The concept of free will
One of the many philosophical concerns that have been the subject of debate for many philosophers is free will. The free will of human beings refers to the capability to make decisions and choose between a set of alternatives, without any barriers or restraints from social, natural, or divine factors. Free will is also associated with freedom that can be circumstantial or metaphysical. Circumstantial freedom is about the ability to do things without any hindrance or obstacles, while metaphysical freedom is the ability to make a decision (Chan et al.). This talk about freedom resulted in the concepts of compatibilism and libertarianism. This paper aims to discuss Alfred Julius Ayer’s take on compatibilism, and its relation to free will, in comparison with Roderick Chisholm’s libertarianism.
Compatibilism, a concept also called “soft determinism”. In discussing this, it is also essential to know what determinism is. Determinism believes that human beings have circumstantial freedom, it does not support the idea of having metaphysical freedom, resulting in the belief that the path that is taken by each human being is already predetermined, and is something that humans have no control over (List). Compatibilism on the other hand finds the reconciliation or a middle ground between determinism and free will. This concept is about human beings being able to exercise freedom through voluntary actions even when there are some limitations present when it comes to the arrangement of the situation and the surroundings.
This concept is also associated with both a moral responsibility and the Principle of Universal Causation, further supporting that human beings have free will, even though there are factors in the situation that are beyond one’s control, and are morally responsible especially in terms of its own behavior.
Alfred Julius Ayer on compatibilism
The claims of Alfred Julius Ayer regarding compatibilism first tackle the assumptions of philosophers about the concepts of freedom and causality being two contrasting ideas. These two had been considered as exclusive concepts that state how a man cannot be considered free when his actions are already causally determined. He states that this assumption may not be correct because it should not be the concepts of freedom and causality that should be contrasted, but is actually freedom and constraint (Mckenna).
Ayer supports human freedom and determinism as both true and compatible, and in line with moral responsibility which holds human beings accountable for their actions. These concepts are also consid
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