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"We are free to make ethical decisions" Discuss.

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"We are free to make ethical decisions" The views of scholars and philosophers regarding free will are generally representative of libertarianism, hard determinism or compatibilism, also referred to as soft determinism. These three theories display different attitudes to the extent of free choice humans possess, and the moral responsibility that thus follows, or lack of there of. Libertarians reject the idea of predestination and believe in full moral responsibility for our chosen actions. For instance, Existentialists embrace the essence of Augustine's work. He had a traditional understanding of God as an omniscient, omnipotent and an omnibenevolent Creator, and interpreted the Genesis stories much more literally that one would tend to today. Augustine believed that God knowingly created humans as conscious beings capable of determining their own moral behaviour. Augustine valued such freedom above the moral evil it may potentially cause, and believed that the unethical consequences were a price worth paying for the ability to willfully be in harmony with God. ...read more.


Therefore, by probability, some evil is predestined and unavoidable, and points to a certain degree of irrelevance of people's actions, for if their existence and environment weren't created and determined by God, they wouldn't have the option of making the choice in the first place. If humans believe they are making ethical choices, but this is in fact an illusion, they are living in a deterministic world. Hard Determinists reject the possibility of free will; John Locke used the analogy of a man in a locked room to illustrate this. A man goes to sleep in a room that is locked; when he wakes up he chooses not to leave the room, and thinks this is his choice, yet he remains unaware that it is impossible to leave the room even if he should wish to. In the same way, humans believe they make daily ethical decisions when in fact their actions have been pre-determined, and they simply do not know the full causes of their 'choices'. ...read more.


However, he also believed that if we attempt to change out environment, this would also affect our future decisions. The idea that humans can manipulate the chain of causes in their lives is called 'conditioning'. In the same way, Pavlov famously made a dog salivate at the ring of a bell. However, some rest their beliefs firmly on biology and evolution; Dawkins for instance argues that the ethical decisions one might make are in fact caused by natural selection. Soft determinists believe that it is possible to unite the ideas of determinism with free will. While agreeing that all our decisions have some sort of a cause, they are not subject to external pressure. Therefore, humans have as much freedom as is necessary to subsequently claim moral responsibility for their actions. Kant believed that all theoretical human knowledge has been caused, yet their 'practical reason' is free. The latter cannot be without freedom, for when we are about to make an ethical decision we always consider ourselves free; our conscience and self awareness is therefore what makes us free to make ethical decisions. ...read more.

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