The Debate on Free Will and Determinism

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About this sample


Words: 711 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Words: 711|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Free Will
  3. Determinism
  4. Compatibilism
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works Cited


In the journey of life, humans often find themselves grappling with a range of emotions such as regret and denial after making questionable decisions. The question that arises is whether these emotional responses are justified. This inquiry hinges on the debate between free will and determinism, questioning whether humans truly have control over their actions or if they are simply following a predetermined path. This topic is not only of philosophical interest but also holds significance in religious teachings that explore human consciousness and predestination. This essay seeks to delve into the definitions of free will and determinism, present arguments for and against each concept, and consider the possibility of compatibilism. It posits that while free will and determinism can coexist, they cannot be fully embraced simultaneously.

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Free Will

The concept of free will has intrigued philosophers throughout history. At its core, free will refers to an individual's ability to make decisions without external constraints, unaffected by necessity or fate. Philosophers like Plato viewed free will as a form of self-mastery, allowing individuals to control their passions and desires. Philo of Alexandria believed that free will distinguished humans from animals, residing in the soul. Kant associated free will with morality, suggesting that individuals who act in accordance with true morals exercise genuine free will. Despite differing perspectives, philosophers have often connected free will to ethics and the struggle against corruption.

Some philosophers have defended free will through various arguments. Descartes, in his "Fourth Meditation," contended that the capacity to make errors proved the existence of free will, as God would not deceive individuals by creating them with faulty judgment. However, contemporary scientific debates have challenged the notion of free will, suggesting that neural activity precedes conscious effort, undermining the idea of true agency. Genetic studies have also hinted at the influence of genes on intelligence and behavior, raising questions about the extent of human autonomy.


In contrast to free will, determinism posits that every event is causally determined by preceding events, negating the idea of free choice. Ancient philosophers like Democritus and Leucippus were among the first determinists, arguing that nothing happens randomly but as a result of necessity. Modern thinkers like Schopenhauer contended that individual actions are predetermined reactions to stimuli, denying the existence of free will. Religious teachings often align with determinism, attributing events to divine providence and predestination.

Critics of determinism, such as Van Inwagen, have highlighted its incongruence with moral responsibility. According to Van Inwagen, if all actions are predetermined, individuals cannot be held accountable for immoral behavior, as external forces dictate their actions. This raises doubts about the moral implications of determinism and challenges its compatibility with human ethics.


In the face of the free will versus determinism dichotomy, some philosophers have proposed compatibilism as a middle ground. Compatibilism suggests that free will and determinism can coexist, allowing individuals to hold both beliefs simultaneously. This reconciliation is motivated by the desire to preserve human agency while acknowledging the influence of external factors.

One argument for compatibilism is based on defining free will through morality. By aligning free will with moral decision-making, individuals can exercise agency within a predetermined framework. For instance, Martin Luther's defiance of the Roman Catholic Church was driven by a moral imperative, highlighting the compatibility of free will and determinism in ethical choices.


In conclusion, the debate between free will and determinism remains a fundamental question in philosophy. While free will emphasizes individual agency and decision-making, determinism posits a deterministic universe governed by causal chains. Compatibilism offers a potential resolution by integrating free will with determinism through moral considerations. Ultimately, the interplay between free will and determinism underscores the complexity of human autonomy and the influence of external factors on decision-making.

Works Cited

Cunning, David, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes’ Meditations. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Gregory, Andrew. “Leucippus and Democritus on Like to Like and Ou Mallon.” Apeiron, vol. 46, no. 4, 2013, pp. 446–468.

List, Christian. “Free Will, Determinism, and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise.” Noûs, vol. 48, no. 1, 2014, pp. 156-178.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea: 3 Vols in 1. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

Sniekers, Suzanne, et al. “Genome-Wide Association Meta-Analysis of 78,308 Individuals Identifies New Loci and Genes Influencing Human Intelligence.” Nature Genetics, vol. 49, 2017, pp. 1107–1112.

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Van Inwagen, Peter. Thinking About Free Will. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Debate on Free Will and Determinism. (2024, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“The Debate on Free Will and Determinism.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2024,
The Debate on Free Will and Determinism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
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