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Free Will and Moral Integrity - Essay Example

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Free Will and Moral Integrity

....and chaos from recommencing her topsy-turvy reign" (William James, Essay p. 5)
This essay intends to show, in the final analysis, that compatibilism and determinism can in fact operate side by side, but it is his argument on free will, or 'chance' as he likes to term it, which willbe explored. The philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, as presented in his work 'Leviathan' will be used to refute the concept of free will and morality, with E. M. Forster's 'The Machine Stops' as a counter argument in support of James. For the purposes of this discussion, free will is defined as 'being able to make a choice, without constraint, given the circumstances of the individual.' (A personal definition)
William James - Free Will, Morality and 'The Dilemma of Determinism': James argues that if we take the word 'chance, consider it to be the possibility of different choices and subsequent outcomes, then free will is being applied. Following on from the quotation, an interpretation of his words might be that he considers that determinists believe chance decisions and ambiguity of outcomes are not how the universe or the world work If such a preposterous notion were to be accepted and acted upon, (can we call this notion free will) then everything would fall apart, given
that the history of the universe is fixe...
Yet there is much weight behind his claim that a dilemma exists, as he cites the possible response to the Brockton murder, which determinism, of necessity, would have to make - he fears the possible outcome to be a pessimistic acceptance of evil, almost, that's how it is, what can be done His argument brings to the fore, the moral questions of right and wrong, good and evil, coming down squarely on the side of free will. The beliefs in an outside Providence, in man's own ability to make moral decisions, may well be translatable to the concept of compatibilism and determinism going hand in hand. But it is the aspect of free will and morality which drives his argument, and when he states,
"Chance" is ---what Just this, -- the chance that in moral respects the future may be other
and better than the past has been. This is the only chance we have any motive for supposing
to exist." (James, p. 19)
we are convinced of his sincerity. He further contends that whether it be our creator or ourselves who decides to choose good over evil, matters little, it is necessary to admit that all decisions are in the here and now, we make them, and he describes it thus "gives the palpating life reality to our moral life and makes it tingle." (James p. 21) James is convinced that man has and uses free will, and in so doing, demonstrates a moral integrity. He considers that determinists face a dilemma in accepting that chance and choice can play a part in understanding self and the world, that a philosophy such as this denies man choice or the right to belief in Providence or humanity. The argument is supported by the events depicted in 'The Machine Stops', portraying a reality of the ...Show more


Introduction: In his essay, 'The Dilemma of Determinism', William James appears to consider determinism a problem in the exercise of free will, which for compatibilists is an uncomfortable idea. However, He contends that free will does exist and despite dispensing with the word 'freedom', argues eloquently on behalf of that premise As to determinism, he says that:
Author : edenlittel
Free Will and Moral Integrity essay example
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