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What Is Hard Determinism?

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What Is Hard Determinism? There are several viewpoints which consider whether we are free when making decisions and taking courses of action. One of these perspectives is hard determinism. J. Mackie described hard determinism as: 'The view that all actions are explicable in terms of their causes and are therefore inevitable' (J. Mackie) This outlines the basic idea that no action or decision is free. This is based upon the notion that for an action to happen there are a series of factors that ensure the occurrence of that action: '...all our choices, decisions, intentions, other mental events, and our actions are no more than effects of other necessitated events' (T. Honderich) Therefore we are not free to act as we wish due to our actions being determined previously by prior events. As Ekstrom suggested, apparent forking paths appear in life, which seem to give us our own choice, however we are conditioned to take the path we choose by such factors as our upbringing and culture, so our choice is not one of our own but rather that of conditioning. ...read more.


Sigmund Freud first suggested the notion of psychological conditioning that would, again, condition our decisions and actions. He separated the human psyche into three parts; the Id, Ego and Super-Ego. The Id is our child hood desires to seek pleasure and avoid pain and demands immediate gratification, the Super-Ego is the ideals we would like to create in society, whilst the Ego moderates the two due to being governed by the 'reality principle'. It is then that our motives and desires emerge subconsciously from the psyche, usually as a result of suppressed feelings which emerge later in life. Carl Jung furthered Freud's theory stating that the choices that we are conscious of making (the individual consciousness) are affected by the individual, cultural and universal subconscious. The individual subconscious is a personal aspect that we are not aware of but effects our decision making, the cultural subconscious consists of cultural aspects that instruct you whether or not to do something, whereas the universal subconscious is an aspect of life which affects everyone across the world. The idea of genetic conditioning has also been approached. ...read more.


If it is an accident, then it is merely a matter of chance that I did not choose otherwise; and if it is merely a matter of chance that I did not choose otherwise, it is surely irrational to hold me morally responsible for choosing as I did' (A.J Ayer) Due to this morality cannot be free, thus making sin an incoherent concept. How can a human being be labelled sinful if the act they committed was made through no decision of their own? An example of this presented by J. Hospers compares a kleptomaniac and a thief. In a world governed by hard determinism neither is blameworthy as neither person has a choice with regard to the act of theft. Even the thief who was conditioned by past cause, as mentioned previously. To summarise, hard determinism focuses on the concept that human beings are not responsible for their actions as they do not decide them freely, rather they are determined for the individual by specific factors and past causes. Although we may believe that we are free to make our own decisions, whatever they may be, we are sadly misunderstood: 'All events are totally predetermined by other events and so freedom of choice is an illusion' (J. Mackie) ...read more.

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