The Big Bang

During independence day I dipped fireworks into paint and placed them upon photographs in my investigation of how free we really were.

Freedom isn’t Free

The war on fighting for freedom has constantly been waged among men, as inherently the sense to do as one desires is an experiential perspective worth fighting for. Those fighting have been soldiers defending their countries liberties, these fighters have been minorities fighting for their rights and these fighters have been philosophers, scientists, psychologists and mathematicians fighting upon many different battlegrounds of thought. There are thus many debatable dilemmas when it comes to the nature of free will and that of determinism, which are distorted by multiple theories in the multiple fields of research that approach the various angles of discussion. This essay’s intention is to offer insight to the battle by addressing the fundamental problems and answers on all sides of the debate both historically and in contemporary discoveries. Ultimately this essay will fight on the grounds that the dualistic conceptions of indeterminism and determinism are in actuality two sides of the same coin and that one side cannot exist without the other, that there is no battle to defend for or against.

Ideas of determinism have existed since ancient society, particularly with destiny of those that violate certain moral injunctions and the “karmic” retribution, which they consequently deserve. This is to say the outcome of human undertakings and the following reaction of events that effect human’s actions to which they believe are under their control are deemed as free will with deterministic requisite results. Even in Christian beliefs with “gods influence”, people are not excused from their free willed actions even if god had predicted such actions. Neo-Platonism however suggests that the unraveling of god’s essence is a process that is ultimately necessary and immutable, a similar belief to the Hindu’s conceptualization of deities re-enacting their powers and plays through societal structures using people as their actors of will. This could be referred to as theological or pantheistic determinism.

This sense of religious hard-determinism is actually quite similar to the ideas of scientific determinism in which actions have lawful chemical and mechanical reactions that are set in motion from the big bang and will ultimately determine the unfolding of the universe which includes our every action. This mode of thought has been dubbed “Laplace’s demon”, which is essentially knowing all states and forces at a given time would ultimately give awareness to all future and past mechanics of nature. This is a traditional view of deterministic definition in that every event has a cause. Determinists believe that all events and resulting states are obeying laws of the universe, as to which science thus defends contradictory arguments on the premise that equations are “approximately true to variable” and exact causal relations are hard to pinpoint due to chaos or quantum mechanics, and thus their claims in which the same initial conditions produce the same consistent result is true in all situations but improvable due to indeterminable noise. I will delve deeper into defining this mode of thought later in this essay but present them now to give the essential deterministic definition, whereas the essential free will definition is determined as optional choice, the ability to act spontaneously and the liberty to be responsible for one’s own actions.

Experientially this is the ethical consideration of feeling guilt, remorse and responsibility. Though this feeling of freedom is undoubtedly true, the counter debate claims that this sensation is ultimately illusory. The debate extends to other essential questions of effort whereas the importance of trying becomes an important role to outcome or on the other hand potentially an impotent fatal dilemma in which the possibility of overcoming temptation is impossible. Psychoanalytical debate typically deems that actions are determined by wants and volitions and thus we are ultimately free to deny or be pulled by conscious desire and thus to act as we desire, but not necessarily desire what we desire as if we are to act out of unconscious desire we are technically still bound.

Essentially the heart of the debate against free will is an ethical problem regarding personal responsibility. In our current judicial system humans need to be held responsible for their actions unless deemed insane and ultimately ignorant of their own variable effects, in which they are excluded to a separate system of rehabilitation than those deemed sane are condemned to. The prescribed insane are found incapable of being morally responsible for their actions and should thus not be punished, but merely deterred from causing future conflict until potential rehabilitation. Hospers claims in his essay “What Means this Freedom?” that behavior is ultimately induced by unconscious conflicts that originate in infants based off of situational environment conditions in which individuals have no possible control or awareness to, despite the human consciousness believing it has knowledge and responsibility towards its own development. Hospers claims the belief of reward and the fear of retribution are delusory constructs enacting childhood fantasies and fears, which thus imply premeditated and impulsive reactions have no determinative properties regarding free will.

Aristotle said “virtue should become second nature through habit; a virtuous act should be performed as if by instinct; this, far from detracting from its moral worth, testifies to one’s mastery of the desired type of behavior; one does not need to make a moral effort each time it is repeated.” [1] (Hospers 28) Aristotle was saying virtue should become second nature or otherwise a habitual and deterministic response. Reason then could perform as a mask of the unconscious and supplement rationalization, even if the act is conceived as generosity of one’s character. Aristotle did also yet claim “that a person is responsible for his action except for reasons of either ignorance or compulsion”[2](Hospers 30) Ignorance is defined as without the psyche determining (unless blockaded by the unconscious) and as such in acting without knowing the variables in entirety of the present situation. Aristotle also agreed to the idea of conditioning that infantile compulsion is present in all people some of the time and some people all of the time and that response was unavoidable but not in the traditional deterministic sense as an inevitable response. Hospers takes Aristotles argument one step further by declaring that character is entirely shaped off of societal and hereditary structures and thus a criminal is a passive victim to their inherent existence. This wild notion of non-withholding responsibility is more widely accepted empathetically based on additional knowledge of causal conditions such as brain abnormalities or determined insanity.

 With responsibility due to the debts of infantile development, shifting the blame on to the parents is a scapegoat that is equally unjust as according to this sense of determinism they were also predetermined in their actions. Nobody is perfect and nobody is responsible. Though this may seem as a hopeless hereditary gamble, there are those whom have proven the discipline to change their inherent patterning and consequently tend to hold responsibility on those whom cannot meet their unreal and irrational expectations. Hospers claims this conditioned overcoming of inherent traits is luck of societal surroundings and individual effort based on the ability to use residue of unconscious guilt to eliminate patterning. This can be an incredibly self-defeating behavior and a common deterministic guise based on fallacy.

Responsibility in the form of guilt is a proven potential tool for rehabilitation but ultimately, according to Hospers, out of the patient’s control. The idea of free will as an agent for altering perspective has been tested on multiple occasions of which Dan Jones addresses in his journal investigation “The Free Will Delusion?” These experiments Dan Jones deliberates on, were fashioned to understand to what measure the free will is required for individual perspective to operate on optimal behavioral interaction within society and within the every day life context. In a study composed by Roy Baumeister of Florida State University, participants were proposed to accept varying opposing agreements on the premise of free will. One opposition stating essentially that an individual has the ability to override the genetic environmental factors that may influence their behavior versus the other opposition of the deterministic ultimatum, governed responses of scientific law. People’s whom leaned towards the deterministic government were on average less altruistic then their counterparts and ultimately more aggressive towards strangers.[3] Tyler Stillman of Florida State University, working with Vohs, Baumeister and others also found that those whom believed strongly in free will tended towards more positive expectations involving career success. [4] Not only does the general public believe they have free will, but they are empowered in their belief that they have more free will than others. In 1998 the International Social Survey Program asked 40,000 people from 34 countries “Do we make our own fate?” and more than 70 percent answered yes and that they are furthermore better off than others whom are driven by their desires and personalities belonging to their egos. [5] In similar studies they also found those whom believed in determinism were more likely to cheat on tests when given the option as well as commit petty crimes. Another major factor to these results was that people trialed in another Vohs experiment were generally found to believe in free will without being primed, as were the aforementioned experiments. A final example Dan Jones brings up is the Nahmias trial results in which explaining on neuroscience terms “He did X because neuron Y fired and neurotransmitter Z was released” undermined people’s beliefs in free will but when psychologically explained “He did X because he believed Y and desired Z” people tended to not see this as a challenge to the testament of free will.[6] Looking at determinism with a different language then also revealed a different perspective in regards for the sense of self and free will.

 Ruben Casado’s article on the “Ineffectiveness of the Denial of Free Will” also covers similar relational paradoxes. These hypothetical situations give another interesting perspective on the deterministic perspective. Examples include the predicament of Searle in which he proposes an individual responds to a waiter  “Look, I am a determinist, I’ll just wait and see what I order”[7] This relevance proves a lie as waiting to see what happens will inevitably result in a decision with the refusal to decide being a decision in itself. In light of this parable, we can then explain the decisions we make determined by our palatable history but cannot be exempt from deciding all together. This points out the contradiction of assumption in living with a primal intuition. Another example of assumptive perceptual intuition exists in those that are colorblind but without knowledge of the full color spectrum. One of such nature could assume their perception is correct when essentially has a contradictory view towards the actual truth of pragmatic color perception, yet the perceiver is providing a protagonist source of experience. Theoretical disregard of free will is essentially ineffective in practice as the belief or disregard of it are causal factors in making decisions. Even deterministic perspective requires experiential cognitive choices to be made and thus decision can be explained in deterministic standard but ultimately not practiced.

Getting back to Hosper’s argument on responsibility, we see through these examples that responsibility is in fact a tool towards behavioral interaction in society. Yet Hosper’s comes to claim that this ability is ultimately not an option for the innately afflicted criminal. This human characterization is radically justified through the declaration that indeterminism and determinism yield the same account, that we were not in control of creating our own environment or consequently characters.

A similar contemporary issue discussed in Sarah Lucas’s article “Free Will and the Anders Breivik Trial” relates to Hosper’s issues on moral responsibility with the case of Anders Brevik whom admitted to planting a bomb that killed 8 and then shot 69 people to death outside of the Norwegian prime ministers office in Oslo on July 22, 2011[8] Psychological investigations differed on the sanity and essentially the synonymous responsibility of Brevik. This case was ultimately based on judicial justifications towards retributions or deterrence of the criminally accused from committing further crimes on society. Deterrence was inevitable but the innate assumption towards punishment was initially indeterminable due to the inability to determine sanity. The physiologist Benjamin Libet had found that the brain’s motor cortex could be detected 300 milliseconds before the volunteers registered intention to make a movement, which he interpreted as evidence towards the belief of undetermined yet determinable unconscious action and reaction.[9] Libet then gives the example of a murderer whom killed out of sheer thrill but was later found to have a golf ball tumor in his prefrontal cortex of which controls behavioral impulses.  The typical response is to have empathy towards the murderer and release him of his moral responsibility when yet had he not had the tumor he could be equally victimized under the empirical causal reactions of his mechanical brain. In contemporary living it’s taboo to suggest sexual orientation is chosen yet we are somehow inclined to view murderers as accountable instigators of their inherent impulses. Lucas suggests that through psychological breakthroughs, society will turn away from judicial criminal punishment and move towards detention, protection and deterrence.

Sidney Hook offers further light on the discussion of moral responsibility in her appeal to Hosper’s argument in her essay “Necessity Indeterminism and Sentimentalist” Hook claims that Hospers conceptions of moral responsibility is vacuous and meaningless under which the conditions he states are defined as not responsible due to inability of causal conditions and essentially gives no intelligible opposite. Thus moral innocence and guilt become empty constructs under Hospers definition and do not serve society to any extent of necessity. Hook claims that reward and punishment are determinants yet differ from obligated compulsive behavior. She furthermore states that pity for the criminal detracts from pity of the victim and future victims and ultimately withdraws our humanity. Despite these criticisms of Hospers argument, Hook does agree that retributive punishment is just adding additional suffering to suffering and is unnecessary, whether free will is a determinate or not. Hook gives the previous experiments another testimony in saying that if criminals can’t believe they could do better, they won’t. Finishing on a powerful note, Hook, declares that being subjected to a disease isn’t a hard demise as we’ve come to cure disease, it’s not about the cards in your hand, it’s how you use them.

Moritz Schlick addresses the pseudo ethical problem of responsibility in his article “When is a Man Responsible” by addressing concise definitions of a number of prior mentioned blanket terms which thus gives a more succinct view into how many of these advocates are approaching their arguments and how they are essentially cloud covering their statements through intentional ignorance of language devices. Schlick defines ethics as descriptors of moral behavior that refer back to laws and the assumption of scientific causality. This definition as such would determine that if the law of motivation was based entirely without causal desire, we would essentially have no way to describe humanity. This definition prerequisites causality for intelligible thought but as such does not necessarily refute an extent of free will, nor give accountability to deterministic motives without control of the individual.

Schlick then offers two definitions of the word “law’ which plays high stakes in the deterministic discussion and is often used without being properly refined. The first definition is a construct similar to a “state government law” that contradicts the citizens desires and is consequently obeyed under the compulsion of fear of consequences. In natural sciences law is not a prescription to how something should properly act or else it may face undesirable repercussions. Rather, natural science law is a descriptive formula of how something does in fact act and is not persuaded through compulsive order. Natural laws do often require external necessary conditions, but are also found universally valid in all states, which is different than the concept of compulsion even though they withhold the same opposites of acausality or indeterminism.[10] These oppositional views do not essentially mean that freedom is exempt from causal principles or excused from being subject to the laws of nature and thus arguments of determinism and indeterminism should not be used to extinguish one another.

Schlick finished his re-defining of the postulates by stating that definitively the ethical argument surrounding free will is the theoretical interest in the inquisition to as whether a man is morally free, which ultimately is a different question than free will all together. The difference lies between character conduct and personal will. This line blurred in between is difficult to declare what traits are developed without compulsion and that which is subjected to causality. Schlick finishes his delimitation by saying that punishment implies responsibility but towards the effect of reformative measures and acts on relevant motives of the individual that offers modes of improvement, essentially additional causal factors for altercations of character.

In Hobart’s essay “Free Will as Involving Determination and Inconceivable Without It” he further pushes the utilization of free will in what is potentially a deterministic structure by even further defining the dilemmas stand still as in fact two oppositional sides existing on the same coin and that there is essentially no controversy between the sides in which one assertion ultimately implies the others dissertation. Agreeing with Schlick’s non-terminative approach to contradictory oppositions, Hobart furthermore deliberates that this analytical tension actually supports and rationalizes one another to reveal that which is essential in nature. We are clearly subjected to the rationalization of external factors, for example time, yet as the a for mentioned arguments debated, free will is a factual experience of the psyche which can alter potential choices even if deterministic law describes how we may act, whether or not this descriptor is related to compulsion in any sense. Furthermore, with out any means of deterministic law, we would be helpless to randomized actions and even further removed from our abilities to control our will.

Taking a closer look to the fundamental belief of free will, we come to the analytical mind developed and conditioned through training, though not through the classic deterministic view of influential nature, within this mentality of free will therein still lies deterministic forces as Aristotle postulated in the introduction of this essay. Ultimately an individual is a multiplicity of systems acting as a whole, of which these systems extend beyond its individual parts. The fine-tuning of this vehicle comes within self-retrospection implicating respect, judgements, blaming and ultimately moral measurements. These tools again are viewed as essential tools for self-enhancement even within a deterministic existence. Hobart finishes his qualitative fusion by saying that all compulsion is causation but not all causation compulsion, the bones may be bound together but they do not determine entirely how you act with them, determinism offers situational power to owns ability towards action, whether one’s cognitive function may resist impulse or succumb to desires is not belonging to a fatalistic hapless position. The analytical assimilation towards either position thus has no ability to eliminate the equal and opposing force.

Sir Isaac Newton declared the law in which every force has an equal and opposite force, he also declared that which determined the future of the solar system is determined by its current state. Pierre Laplace conjured the infamous “Laplace’s demon” which is an elaboration upon Newton’s law. The demon is essentially the idea that we may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, and if this intellect were also vast enough to submit this data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.[11](smith) Though this intellectual facility is currently far beyond computational, the basis of mathematical theory would suggest then that the universe is ultimately a deterministic mechanism operating as if clockwork.

The exact knowledge of the properties and positions of natural constructs pose a problem in determining states even on a much smaller scale of possible prediction. This predicament was anciently approached with Plato’s discernment dubbed ‘platonic realism ‘ that in any given observational inquiry, there would always be uncertainty and the genuine concept of true value is more or less a best calculable condition. Chaos theory is behavior that appears random but is in fact deterministic though non-linear structures, indeterminable due to uncertainty of present conditions and deviations of expanding influential properties, which exponentially grow towards unpredictability with time. This is not to say that chaotic structures are not impossible to predict but difficult to forecast over time. All chaotic models in which patterns cannot be recognized obey deterministic laws.

Periodicity predictability is useful but impossible to prove in contexts of chaos and determinism. When introducing true stochastic (random) integrals to the equation as an initial starting point, often attractors (parameters) will develop in which the equations cannot break the determined limitations. Udny Yule introduced random numbers to keep a pendulum model alive, whereas chaotic models differ from one state to the next and initial states diverge, Yule’s model constantly reset the equation wherein even far away initial stants would converge under linear dynamics and the uncertainty would saturate to a static state and actually stabilize the fundamental pattern.[12]

This discovery of chaos gave claim that all things have formulae and also potentially not. This claim is based on elements never having true states, but only observed states with noise been the difference. Chaos is the convenient bit of wiggle room allowing scientific claim on the potentiality of a deterministic universe and ultimately chaos implicates rethinking models and restrictions.

Peter Clarke takes a closer examination of these scientific models of physical determinism and applies them to comprehensive structures in his essay “Determinism, Brain Function and Free Will” Beginning with the brain, genetic determinism leaves a large amount of uncertainty towards actual characterization of it’s attributes as the human genome contains theoretically about 6.2x109 bits of information, calculated from the number of nucleotide pairs (3.1x109), each worth 2 bits, in both coding and noncoding DNA as its absolute upper limit and thus gives way to have far to little information to specify particular detailed connections belongs to a person’s 1011 neurons each having hundreds to thousands of synaptic contacts.[13] Given the ultimate possibilities, which DNA has to map out a cerebral cortex, the same DNA would not be able to create the same brain. Though Clarke acknowledges that there are environmental influences on changing the genome and brain development, he addresses the possibility of chance on the cellular level with the example of optical errors and the molecular level with DNA transcripting.

Axons leaving the eye are subjected to cellular level laws and yet 1% of these filopodia turn the wrong way in the optic chiasm and an even higher percentage of up to 40% reach the correct part of the brain but make a subtle error in which they may grow the wrong way on a nucleus. The brain has it’s natural defense against its deficiencies and typically corrects the problem, but the development of an individuals brain, though given some room for error, is thus not an entirely deterministic process.

Beyond the cellular indeterminacy, many molecular processes have been considered as stochastic events. Clarke uses the example of genome multiplication where a transcription factor molecule sends a random diffusion of molecules to bind in a DNA sequence and where literally thousands fail, one makes contact to initiate transcription. This molecular function is a determined sequence of which the particular specifications are essentially random and gives leave to chance in which may potentially alter the overall functioning of an organism. On the molecular and cellular level, there is chance, developmental noise and only approximate specifications.

Quantum theory embraces these constructs of chance, chaos and platonic realism in one principle called Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, of which gives limits to possible determinative measurements. A classic example of this principle belongs to wave mechanics where one may be able to precisely know the momentum or position of an electron, but not both factors at the same time. Though this is a matter of measurement, it denies Laplace’s determinate demon in making his ultimate paradox impossible, as there will always be some level of indeterminate uncertainty. Clarke gives several means where quantum action is possible in brain function but due to the incredibly miniscule reactions of quantum dynamics, the resulting influence on the overall functioning of the brain is to small to make an impression, unless of course enormously amplified through chaotic relations in the neural networks in which case this potentiality of stochastic altercation of the brain is, though small, a possible determinate existing exclusively within the mind for internal development excluded from causal instigation.

Clarke does finish his argument by saying this action is highly unlikely due to sheer miniscule quantum mechanic perturbations and their characteristics for suppressing chaotic fractal patterning but that as stated before, genetic and environmental determinism is scientifically and quantitatively incomplete in which quantum-level indeterminate mechanics may fill the gap to understanding cerebral functioning.

Michael Brownnutt responds to Peter Clarke’s essay on ‘Determinism, Brain Function and Free Will’ with a rebuttal declaring that quantum mechanics has “more up its sleeve” then the Heisenberg principle regarding indeterminism and quantum effects on the biological levels of which Peter Clarke fails to identify. Brownnutt’s primary argument stands within the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and states that the quantum limit of (h/4ji), within the uncertainty principle of (AE.At s h/43t)is only a lower bound on our ignorance and gives no bound how massively ignorant we can be.[14] Brownnutt then gives the example of the calcium atom decay in which deterministic odds are impossible to specify in the in-between states to as how much of the atom is in existence and how long it will be there, as this can only be stated in speculative probability. This is a significantly greater amount of wiggle room for quantum limitations beyond Clarke’s presupposed miniscule perturbations. Furthermore, Brownnutt brings up that atomic ions may actually optimize at room temperature in which he gives the example of bacteria photosynthesis in which energy being absorbed was 99% efficient and was not definable by any current mode of classic mechanics but explainable through quantum models. Even more exciting to the biological realm is the recent experiments on the European robin in which quantum effects were used to adequately explain birds navigation in accordance to the magnetic fields, implying a space for the possibility of synaptic function.

As approached ethically in the beginning of this essay, free will is as necessary of a conceptualization for behavioral societal functioning as is determinism. Moral responsibility though often assimilated within the debate of free will, is all together a separate demon, or angel depending on how one looks at it.  Both positions of indeterminism and determinism rely on each other to function within their ideal claims. Mathematical law provides a determinate definition of the natural world but not causal compulsion. Laplace’s demon still lives behind his shield of chaos, but quantum mechanic’s Heisenberg’s principle is giving us further potentiality to slaying the beast and ultimately a scientific agreement that we are in fact free, all the way down to the molecular level.

Works Cited

Árnason, Gardar. "Neuroscience, Free Will And Moral Responsibility." TRAMES: A Journal Of The Humanities & Social Sciences 15.2 (2011): 147-155. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Berofsky, Bernard. Free Will and Determinism. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. Print.

Brownnutt, Michael. "Response To Peter Clarke On 'Determinism, Brain Function And Free Will.'." Science & Christian Belief 24.1 (2012): 81-85. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Casado, Rubén. "The Ineffectiveness Of The Denial Of Free Will." Philosophical Investigations 34.4 (2011): 367-380. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

CLARKE, PETER G. H. "Determinism, Brain Function And Free Will." Science & Christian Belief 22.2 (2010): 133-149. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Glannon, Walter. "Neuropsychological Aspects Of Enhancing The Will." Monist 95.3 (2012): 378-398. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Jones, Dan. "The Free Will DELUSIOIN. (Cover Story)." New Scientist 210.2808 (2011): 32-35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

LUCAS, SARAH. "Free Will And The Anders Breivik Trial." Humanist 72.5 (2012): 36-39. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Mele, Alfred. "Another Scientific Threat To Free Will?." Monist 95.3 (2012): 422-440. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Smith, Leonard A. Chaos: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.


[1] Hospers

[2] hospers





[7] Ruben Casado




[11] SMITH

[12] SMITHpage51


[14] Brownnutt