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:
....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 ...