During the weeks 4 and 5, we will both ask and explore the following perennial questions which have been agitating human minds since the cradle of their civilizations.
1. Am I free ( to make choices of my own)?
2. Are you free?
3. Are all of our desires and actions determined?
Hawking in his recent book “The Grand Design” wonders that question and holds the stance that our actions and desires are all deterministic ( not by God, but by our previous actions and thoughts). He thinks further that perhaps we won’t ever be able to know how or whether things are determined because it might be beyond our comprehension. The probable reason he offers is that there are so many variables at work that it would be humanely impossible to predict and determine the trajectories of those variables. Consequently, we are perhaps never be able to uncover that riddle.
Spinoza also adopts a more or less a similar line. He says that perhaps our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all pre-determined. Consider a stone in the air thinking itself to be free, but forgets that some human being has actually tossed it in the air. We, according to him, are just like that stone which thinks that it is free, where, in fact, it is not.
Do you agree with these thoughts?
4. When we say actions, thoughts and feelings are determined do we have only one sense of the expression “determinism”? Could “determinism” mean more than one thing?
4. Can we have both, freedom and determinism together? Is it possible that we could be free, but things are still determined?
5. Think of the bridge example from your handout on “Freedom and Determinism.” Is a good example to show some argument for compatibilism or does it have some problems of its own?
6. Is fatalism different from determinism?
7. What is a possible argument for fatalism?
8. What are the problems of fatalism?
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