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7.4: Determinism and Compatibilism

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    Are you free or not... Let's find out.

    1. Universal Determinism's
      1. Everything is the effect of some cause or causes.
      2. For everything that exists there are antecedent conditions.
    2. Causal determinism - every event has a cause
    3. Thesis of determinism: everything whatever is caused.
      1. All things follow natural law, regular patterns.
      2. All events are predictable if enough is known.
    4. Determinism and human behavior: all behaviors have a cause.
    5. Hard determinism - causal determinism is true, and therefore, free action and moral responsibility are impossible.

    The metaphysical theory about human freedom and free will and ethical theories may be in conflict. Two theories may be in conflict with one another but one can't resolve the conflict by assuming either one to be true or false to resolve the conflict. Humans cannot be held responsible for their behavior because they could not have acted otherwise.

    There are laws that govern all physical events. Humans are physical and human actions are physical events. All events have their causes in prior events and the laws that govern the physical universe. Human actions are behaviors. Human behaviors are the result of their inherited genetic pattern, their chromosomes, and their basic physical drives and their prior experiences (conditioning, learned behaviors). All humans are animals and as such they have a drive for food, drink, sex, and rest. All humans have learned other behaviors from their interactions with their physical and social environments (other people). Humans have been conditioned by deliberate and accidental patterns of stimulus response reinforcements. Humans have been rewarded or punished for their behaviors. Humans repeat those behaviors they are rewarded for and avoid those behaviors they have been conditioned to associate with punishment. The conditioning may have been deliberate with hugs and kisses and food from parents for good behavior and frowns and scolding and denial of food or other experiences for behavior that was not to be repeated. Teachers in school act in a similar pattern offering rewards and punishments and so they condition our behavior as well. Siblings and friends act likewise towards us. So humans are the products of physical factors. All human actions are caused by those prior factors. Each of us knows that humans have behaviors that are predictable. The Determinists believe that when they have greater knowledge of the laws of human behavior they will be able to:

    1. Predict exactly what a human will do under any set of circumstances
    2. Manipulate a human into any behavior.

    All that would be needed would be:

    1. Knowledge of all the laws of human behavior
    2. Knowledge of all the prior conditioning any human has had

    Each person knows of the following expressions:

    1. Everyone has a price
    2. You know how to push his buttons

    These expressions support the Determinist view. If someone has been conditioned for certain behaviors and one knows what those conditioning's are (the buttons) then all one needs to do is to “push” them to get the response that has been conditioned or programmed into the human.


    1. Children learn quickly about conditioning. Small children learn what cries and screams will get their parents attention. They learn what hugs and kisses will get them the gift they want. Parents learn what rewards and punishments will get their children to do what the parent wants.
    2. Each of us knows that there have been time when someone has pushed our buttons and we have wished that we would not have lost control but that we did. We feel bad. We wanted to act otherwise, under control. But we lost it! They push our buttons, really got our goat, got to us and we behaved in a manner that we wished were otherwise. Well, that little description of an experience we all can relate to establishes evidence in support of the determinist position. We are not free. We are the products of conditioning.
    3. Advertisers pay as great deal of money to people who believe that they know something of the laws of human behavior. Advertising is effective in raising the sales of products. People buy things to look classy or to fit in with a group. They often buy things that they cannot afford and have little use for but do so because of the advertising. The ads push the buttons and get the response that has been conditioned. People make a great deal of money each year proving that this is so.
    4. At casinos people put money into slot machines and other games of chance. They don’t always win but they get a return often enough to keep them gambling. These behaviors are evidence of the laws of conditioning and of intermittent reinforcement. If a person can get another to do what they want how can it be said that people are free? If everyone has a price to do something and that price is met then they will do it. They will not refuse. They cannot refuse.
    5. There is an expression to the effect that we all have a price. The price may not be money it could be the guaranteed safety of our children or fame, power, or something else. If this is true it lends support or evidence in support of the determinist position. Is it possible for someone to turn down their price when it is offered? Would that not mean that their price was higher or something different than what was offered?

    It appears that the claim that " everyone has a price" is a very difficult claim to disprove. There is lots of evidence in support of it and none opposed to it because any instance of a price being turned down would be a case of the price being miscalculated by whoever made the offer. It would not be the real price. If this is so, there is something either very powerful about the claim or something wrong.

    Some will claim that when offered money to do some act that "never in a million years! You couldn't pay me enough to do that!" and even claim that for them there is no price.This only means that the price for them has not been offered as yet. What a person would never do for money they would do to protect the lives of their children or for some other "price" No freedom just different prices for different people for different acts!

    I do not know the personal histories of the students in my class. I do know some general things about people and what motivates them. Money is one big conditioning agent. In class I offer something to someone I think is particularly susceptible to a particular offer in return for a behavior I want exhibited. It has never failed.


    I select a student and take out a five-dollar bill. I offer five dollars in return for barking like a dog. He barks. I hand over the $5. I offer another student a ten dollar bill. The student must stand in front of the class and state ” I am an ass”. He does so and I hand over the $10. I then ask the class if there is anyone there who would turn down $100,000 in return for dropping out of the course and the college for a semester. No one has ever said that they would refuse. They all have a price and if I can meet it I can get them to do the act. I enter the room with an envelope. It is sealed. In it I have a slip a paper on which I have written the action I will make someone do. I have always succeeded. There is something I have the power to do that can get a student to get up and leave the room and the building for the duration of the class. I select a student I make the offer and they get up and leave. It does not cost me any money. They are happy. The class is left wondering whether or not the student could have said no. I claim that the student could not have refused, once I met the price. If I know a person’s buttons, their programming, their conditioning, and if I can push those buttons i can make that person do what i want.

    Hard Determinism

    Introduction to Hard Determinism

    In Hard Determinism there is no freedom of the will at all. We have been conditioned to believe in freedom. It is a silly and outmoded idea that stops us from being more effective in reducing criminal behavior and improving the quality of life for everyone. When criminals are found guilty they need to be reprogrammed, reconditioned to avoid the criminal behavior. We do not do that now because of the silly beliefs we have in souls, minds and freedom. Psychology and Neuroscience will continue to provide more and more evidence that people are not free and that we do not have minds. We have brains and we have conditioning. That is all.


    1. The brain contains elements that determine what appear to be human decisions: the neurological basis for decision making.
    2. The brain in its unconscious processing determines what appear to be conscious choices.

    Either you are forced to do something by some external agent or you are forced or made to do something by an internal agent such as a reason or a motive or a feeling or a aim or a purpose or a goal that you have.

    Either way your behavior is determined by the forces working on you that make you who you are and make you do what you do. No freedom. When you claim that you decide to do x and that the decision to do x was free what do you mean? What made you decide to do X?Whatever made you decide to do X made you decide to do it. It made you decide.

    If I ask why did you decide to do X and you indicate that it was your values or motives or goals or aims or desires or prior experiences then that is what made you decide. There is no freedom there is only determinism. Antecedent conditions and experiences have produced as a consequence the decision to do X.

    The point is this is evidence that people act out of motives and you can get them to do things if you know what those motives are. Motives are the result of prior experiences and so people are determined by their past to act in certain ways. They cannot help themselves. They have no free will. They are conditioned to believe otherwise and they enjoy thinking that they are free but the evidence is that they are not.

    Final Piece of Evidence

    Would you stop reading this book or drop this course in return for $10,000? Tell the truth! Would you really have a choice? If I met your price? You "gotta" do what you "gotta" do! The "gotta" is your conditioning.


    Soft determinism (or compatibilism) is the position or view that causal determinism is true, but we still act as free, morally responsible agents when, in the absence of external constraints, our actions are caused by our desires. Compatibilism does not maintain that humans are free. Compatabilism does not hold that humans have free will.

    What Does Compatibilism Hold?

    1. The thesis of determinism is true, and that accordingly all human behavior, voluntary or involuntary, like the behavior of all other things, arises from antecedent conditions, given which no other behavior is possible: all human behavior is caused and determined
    2. Voluntary behavior is nonetheless free to the extent that it is not externally constrained or impeded
    3. The causes of voluntary behavior are certain states, events, or conditions within the agent: acts of will or volitions, choices, decisions, desires etc...

    What is Compatibilism?

    1. Compatibilism is determinism with a slight modification for the sake of appearances and for our language use.
    2. It is a position taken because of the perceived need to have some idea of accountability or responsibility for human behavior.
    3. For those who hold this position humans can be held accountable for their actions and blameworthy if they act according to their will (however formed) and are not coerced or forced by external agencies or agents.
    4. If the motives or goals or other factors that form the will are the results of prior events and experienced and are so determined that does not nullify the idea that the human acts according to a will and has freedom of the will.

    What Compatibilism is Not

    1. Compatibilism is not a position that combines the libertarian and determinist positions.
    2. Compatibilismis not a compromise of the two other positions.
    3. Compatibilism is not a position that holds that humans are "a little bit" free.
    4. Compatibilism is not a position that holds that humans have "limited free will".
    5. Compatibilism is not a position that holds that humans have some free will.

    Humans are either free or they are not. They either possess free will and can use it or they do not have it at all. They either have it and can use it as often as they want to do so or they have only the appearance of free will and really never make decisions or choices devoid of prior influences that determine the outcome of the decision or choice making procedure.

    That there may be social or physical constraints is not the issue here. Humans are not able to fly using only their own bodies to propel them through the air. You could say that humans are not "free " to do so but that would be to misuse the word free and change its meaning from "being able to choose" to "being physically able to do".

    There may be repercussions or consequences for our actions so that a person might want to say something like "I am not free to rob a bank and by that mean that if they did they would be pursued and captures and imprisoned. If persons have free will they can make the choice to rob a bank and flee capture. Freedom in this context of the freedom versus determinism issue has a meaning that identifies it with possessing free will or being able to make choices for ones self.

    Crash Course on Compatibilism

    Criticisms of Compatibilism:

    The Determinists criticize the Compatibilists for for claiming that there is any freedom at all. The Determinists think the Compatibilists are defining freedom in a different manner in order to make the claim that there is some freedom of choice. The Determinists hold that all apparent decision making or choices are determined by internal and external factors, including desires, motives, principles that are in turn the effects of prior causes.

    The Libertarians criticize the Compatibilists for being Determinists in a different guise.

    Fatalism and Determinism

    1. Universal causation + causal determination of all human behavior
    2. Fatalism concerning the past-it cannot be changed
    3. Fatalism concerning the future-it cannot be changed
    4. The future is already known by God-Divine Omniscience
    5. Therefore, all events are unavoidable

    Argument for Fatalism

    Law of Excluded Middle

    1. All statements are true or false
    2. All statements about the future are true or false
    3. Statements that are true or false can not be changed, altered or avoided
    4. Therefore, all future events are already determined and unavoidable.

    Invincible Fate

    People make statements about "the" "future". Do these statements or claims exist as true or false statements? If so, is the future already set, is it determined? If not then what is the meaning of such statements or claims?


    1. Free or Determined? You choose?
    2. Or has your thinking has already been determined by prior events? There are a variety of positions and each has strong and weak aspects.
    3. Which position has the best evidence and reasoning in support of it?
    4. Which position is your position?
    5. Do you choose not to have a position?
    6. Have you been programmed, trained or conditioned into making that response?

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