People and Their Freedom to Act Ethically

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“We don’t have the freedom to act ethically” Discuss (35 marks) The debate of whether we have genuine freedom to act ethically or whether, by contrast, we are determined to do so is a topic of great relevance even today. Most people hold different opinions on this topic, some are extreme and some are fundamental. The problem for philosophers is whether free will is compatible with determinism, and whether it is thought to be so or not will depend on how we understand free will. Determinism is a theory that challenges the common belief that we are morally responsible for our actions, and we carry actions out freely and deliberately. Determinism therefore states that freedom of choice is merely an illusion, making personal responsibility a meaningless concept, along with blame and punishment. This theory explains that laws of nature exist which govern everything and our actions are a result of these laws. Every choice we make has been predetermined by the situation before it. Whereas, free will is the ability of people to make choices freely and to decide from a number of choices. However, as animals seem to be able to do this, free will for humans must mean something more. Free will for humans is bound up with the ability to make ethical choices and so implies that we have moral responsibility. For example, if someone is considering whether to take their dog for a walk, they might argue its cold and raining but the dog needs exercise and so they decide to go for the good of the dog. This is a free action, freely decided. Extremists who take a determinist approach are known as hard determinists. Hard determinism is the view that all choices are determined by other events or actions prior to the choice. Therefore they are caused by other events or actions in the past. For example, when I decided to take A Level RE, this wasn’t a product of free will but it was determined by other events. People who believe in this approach say we have no free will at all so will...