Dr. Henry Shreibman
Free Will vs. Determinism in Early Western Philosophy
The concept of free will vs. determinism has been an issue debated by philosophers for thousands of years. Early philosophers including Aristotle, Plato, and Epicurus created theories on the question of how much a person can control their own destiny. Free will, or indeterminism, is the idea that people can control their own lives and fates. Determinism is the idea that everything one does is decided by outside forces. Most ancient philosophers’ theories fall somewhere in between these two ideas. Determinism also creates the dilemma of moral responsibility; if one cannot control one’s own actions, how can one be held responsible for them? Forces outside of an individual’s control determine many events and actions, but there are always decisions that one can make for oneself.
“Determinism is the idea that everything that happens, including all human actions, is completely determined by prior events” (Determinism). Not only are the events around humans out of their control, their very thoughts and feelings are determined separately from any free will that they might possess. The concept of determinism must be separated from pre-determinism, a religious concept that states that the entire past and future was determined during the universe’s birth. Some people believe that one cause (usually thought to be God) was the start of a chain of events, where each link is in turn the cause for the next events in said chain. Some believe that the mind and body have different circumstances when it comes to determinism of the mind and determinism of the body. This is called mind/body dualism (The History of the Free Will Problem). This idea has been around for thousands of years, and therefore has evolved into multiple forms and variations.
Determinism has a vast array of sub-categories. One sub-category, named and invented by the ancient philosophers...