The solution to “free will” is determinism

2 thoughts on “The solution to “free will” is determinism”

  1. Hey, just wondering if you could unpack that first paragraph a bit?

    “The statement that “the self can cause the self” is necessarily false because of its self-referential nature (reductio ad absurdum)”

    Are you making a point about the grammatical structure of the sentence or about causality in particular? I’m not sure I see why things can’t refer to themselves (the self can reflect on the self, for example). That a self-caused thing could exist certainly seems counter-intuitive, but to conclude that it’s self-contradictory would require some argument, I think.

    “In other words, the Will cannot will itself to be something different from what it already is.”

    Can’t it? Seems to me like on the face of it, the question of what the will can will is distinct from that of whether it can do so freely. I might notice that I’m just reading trashy novels all the time, and decide that I’d like to be more cultured. I spend more time in the library, get into serious literature. At first it just seems boring, but I keep going (because I’m vain) and eventually I develop an appreciation for it. Now I don’t need to force myself – I actually seek it out without conflict. Now suppose determinism is true and none of that was ‘really’ chosen; given exactly the same initial conditions, I would have done everything the same. Don’t we still have an example of the will willing itself to be something different from what it already is?

    For the record, I don’t believe in so-called libertarian free will either. But I’m struggling to see how your first paragraph constitutes a definitive proof of its absurdity.



    1. Actually, I think you’re quite right. It depends on whether we perceive the self as a whole (past, present and future), or whether we perceive the self as an ever-changing system such that the present self always differs depending on which instance in time we are looking at.

      That’s why later on I explained that the present self can influence the future self. My argument relies on the realisation that, at any instance in time, everything is fixed, whether we like it or not. Changes take time, and if the change is to happen willingly, there needs to be a causal (deterministic) relationship between the present self and the future self.

      Let me put it this way: my present self finds myself at the library, and even if I regret it now, I can’t simply wish that I were somewhere else. (It will take time for me to leave the library, and the future me that has left the library is different from the present me that is at the library. In this way, the present me is sort of “trapped” in the library, because it is impossible for anybody to change that without time elapsing.) My present self is at the library because my past self chose to go to the library.

      There is also the fact that the self is not a closed system, which means that it is always open to all kinds of external influences. The degree of freedom our wills have is always proportional to the degree of influence we have on not just ourselves, but also on the world around us which continually influences us.


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