Compatible of Determinism and Free Will

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Background to the Problem

The argument over whether free will and determinism are compatible is debatable, and creates wide intellectual discussion. The primary difference between free will and determinism used here is based on the number of consequences possible in any given decision-making experience. Free will infers the ability to do otherwise is possible, that the individual “could have done otherwise.” Determinism is defined as only one possible nonrandom consequence of any choice, given a person’s genes, past/present environments, and any genetic factor ecological interactions. But what does free will mean? Some people argue that as long as you are able to make rational, informed decision without being subjected to undue force, you have free will. It’s a question that is mainly about when we try to assign people moral accountability for their actions.

Determinism, on the other hand, holds that every event is caused in a foreseeable way by events before it. As such, some people argue and conclude that free will is an illusion. But this would an amount to arguing that the notion of responsibility for one’s own action should be questioned since no one is free in acting in one way or the other. If the actions of individuals are not free then it becomes more difficult to say that a criminal, for example, is guilty of anything other than being serene of atoms, his actions predetermined by the laws of quantum mechanics.

Statement of the Problem

It is widely held that in order for an action to be free, it must be the case that the agent can do otherwise. A major dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists concerns what this ability amounts to. Compatibilists offer various interpretations of ‘can’ on which the agent’s ability to do otherwise is compatible with determinism. Incompatibilists typically argue that these interpretations are implausible and that intuitively an agent’s ability to do otherwise is not compatible with determinism. A more complicated issue would be the question of whether Free will and determinism are reconcilable.

Objective of the Research

This research aims at critically investigating the reconcilability of free will with determinism. To this end the writer will first critically analyze the notion of determinism and that of free will. The writer will then critically examine the arguments forwarded by proponents of compatibilists and incompatibilists. Finally, the writer will forward her own line of arguments in relation to the compatibility and non-compalibility of free will and determinism.

Research Questions

A standard arguments against the compatability of free will and determinism, which are adapted as research questions in this thesis is the following;

  • Premise 1: A necessary condition for someone’s action to account as free is the agent can do otherwise.
  • Premise 2: Determism implies that the agent can’t do otherwise.
  • Conclusion: Either there are no free action, or determinism is false (or both).


The approach the writer will be employing in this thesis is that of critical exposition, and evaluation. Moreover, the deep attitude of thinking and rational scrutiny employed in carrying out this task, will make itself evident in the assessment of determinism and freewill compatbilism? Equally, the experimental philosophy will be employed to expose how compatibil/incompatible free will and determinism are. Apart from this, intellectual exercise will be employed to indicate how far the writer is able to reconcile the two concepts.

Scope of Study

There is no doubt that the field of determinism and freewill is a very vast one. However I am concerned with the exposition of the contribution of Christian List on the issue of determinism and freewill compatibility. But the writer will borrow relevant ideas from philosophers whose works are within the confines of determism and freewill. After which the writer will make his analysis by a way of evaluation and conclusion.


  1. Christian List (2014), Free will, determinism, and the possibility of doing otherwise, Nous, 48(1) PP 156-178. ISSN 0029-462.
  2. Dennett, D. C. (1984a). I Could not Have Done Otherwise—-So what? The Journal of Philosophy,
  3. Edwards, J. (2001). Freedom of the will. Tennessee, Lightning Source Inc.
  4. Kane, R. (1989). Two kinds of incompatibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Oxford University Press (Oxford).
  5. Kane, R. (1996). The Significance of Free Will, Oxford University Press (New York).
  6. Pereboom, D. (2001), Living Without Free Will, Cambridge University Press (New York).
  7. Van Inwagen, P. (1983), An Essay on Free Will, Oxford University Press(Oxford)
  8. Watson, G. (1987), Free Action and Free Will Mind, Clarendon Press.

Cite this paper

Compatible of Determinism and Free Will. (2020, Nov 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/compatible-of-determinism-and-free-will/

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