What is other determinism

Free will or determinism


1 Introduction

2. The text by Nagel

3. Historical

4. Definitions

5. Determinism or indeterminism

6. The determinism problem
6.1. Reasoning for determinism
6.1.1. General explanation of the deterministic theory
6.1.2. Determinism related to human will
6.2. Problems in adopting the theory of determinism
6.2.1. The attitude towards others
6.2.2. The personal reaction
6.3. Compatibilism
6.4. Criticism of Determinism
6.4.1. Doubt about determinism
6.4.2. Doubts about the transferability of determinism

7. Ways out and alternatives
7.1. Alternative explanatory concepts
7.2. Self-organizational will

8. Conclusion


1 Introduction

Most people are convinced of the freedom of their will and that of other people. They usually already believe that they have made decisions themselves and are convinced that they can influence their future. At the same time, however, most people are also convinced that every event has a cause, that nature functions according to certain immutable laws, and that there is a connection between these two claims, namely that causes by certain laws produce effects. They can live well with these beliefs and there are no problems with them in everyday life. On closer examination of these two assumptions, however, one can come to the conviction that the two assumptions are mutually exclusive, at least if they are to be taken strictly and have general validity. If everything really happens according to certain laws and every event has a cause, then this connection can also be expanded further and asserted that the cause also has a cause, which in turn has a cause, etc. This can also be continued and asserted in the future Every event produces an effect, which in turn produces an effect, and so on. This is how chains of causes and effects arise, which take place in a manner determined by the laws of nature. This theory is called determinism. According to determinism, however, there is no longer any room for free will, since everything is predetermined by the laws of nature.

The conclusion is that one of the claims made at the beginning must be false. The simpler thing is to say that determinism is wrong. After all, freedom of will is an everyday experience that cannot simply be denied. This is what the proponents of free will argue. The proponents of determinism, on the other hand, claim that all processes in nature can be explained with the help of this theory. Apart from processes at the particle level, there are no phenomena in nature that refute determinism. Man is part of nature, so determinism must apply to man too. Free will is just a delusion. People only believe that they are free because they do not know all natural laws and conditions. Finally, there are those who claim that free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive. The representatives of this thesis are called compatibilists.

Thomas Nagel has devoted a chapter to this problem in his little introduction to philosophy.1 After briefly introducing this chapter, I would like to present a representative of each of the two opposing positions from more recent times. On the one hand, there is Ted Honderich, who advocates determinism2 and on the other hand Steffan Ritzenhoff, who advocates freedom of will.3 I will also provide a very brief historical outline of how this problem was dealt with in the history of philosophy and introduce some representatives of compatibilism with their theses. Of course, one could introduce many more people who have dealt with this topic and whose work is definitely noteworthy. In more recent research there are, for example, works by Hannah Arendt4 or John Erpenbeck5 to call. However, this would be too detailed.

2. The text by Nagel

First, using an everyday situation, Nagel shows the insight that is deeply rooted in each of us that one could have made a different decision in the case of actions in which one was under no coercion. He then explains what it means when someone says: 'I could have made a different decision. What happens depends entirely on my own decision. ’This means that the person who could have acted differently at exactly the same point in time, under exactly the same circumstances, could have made a different decision. We do not allow objects, plants, or most animals to have this ability. When we say that a car could have driven up the mountain, we only mean that the car had enough power to drive up the mountain, not that it could have driven up the mountain just like that. It seems that only people can decide to take another action without having to do anything else beforehand. This means that until an action occurs, that action is not determined by anything. What the future will look like is an open possibility that is influenced by our decisions. Other processes in nature are not open possibilities. For example, it is certain that tomorrow the sun will rise. There's no way the sun won't come up tomorrow. This happening is determined from the outset by the laws of nature. We only see our own actions as not predetermined in advance.

In the second part of his text, Nagel describes objections to this claim. The proponents of these objections argue from the standpoint of determinism. They claim that nothing is possible that is not determined in advance. Our actions and decisions are also determined and inevitable. They believe that the universe obeys certain laws that must also be applied to humans. According to these laws one can in principle predict the course of the universe. However, this forecast changes the initial conditions, which in turn can change the forecast result. In practice, it is therefore not possible to predict all the processes in our world, even if one knew all the laws of nature and all the initial conditions. However, that does not change the fact that our actions are predetermined and inevitable. A decision is determined exclusively by the situation that precedes it and this in turn by the situation that precedes it, etc.

The next section in Nagel's text describes the consequences of adopting determinism. If we are not free in our decisions, we can no longer be held responsible for our actions. Praise and blame are morally unjustifiable and reckless or dishonest behavior of others should be viewed as a kind of natural disaster. Punishment can only be justified by the fact that it serves as an educational measure and as a deterrent.

Nagel then goes into the opposite position of determinism, indeterminism. If our actions were not predetermined by anything, our desires, our beliefs, or our character, they would just happen with no explanation. If there is no explanation for our behavior, we cannot be held responsible for it either. With the decision between determinism and indeterminism you come to a dead end: We are not responsible for our decisions, regardless of whether the determinism is true or false.

In the last section, Nagel therefore presents an alternative approach, which says that an action due to causes that arise in the person himself becomes a personal action for which he is responsible. He calls this explanation the psychological explanation.

3. Historical

The problem of free will did not arise in ancient philosophy, since at that time no concept of will as we have it today was known. The first approaches to this topic can be found in Aristotle, who saw the will as a rational or motivated striving, and in the philosophy of the Stoa, which spoke of well-founded striving. Augustine can be described as the first philosopher of the will, who saw in the will an independent authority for the orientation of action and life, alongside and independent of understanding and reason. In the Middle Ages, the will is examined in terms of its relationship to the mind. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus represent the two opposing positions. "While Thomas teaches the primacy of reason or the intellect, according to which the will is not itself reasonable, but reason makes the will reasonable, for Duns Scotus reason is only a partial cause of the will."6 In both cases, however, the will of God is the first cause of all being.

In modern times there has been a greater interest in the will and the question of its freedom. René Descartes saw in the will the instrument of man that enables him to develop himself to be like God, but also the organ that includes the possibility of human error. Thomas Hobbes only had a negative concept of freedom, so for him free will was simply the absence of coercion. The idea of ​​determinism also emerged in the early modern period; its most consistent representatives were the chemist Joseph Priestley and the mathematician Pierre Simon de Laplace. Leibniz introduces the distinction between absolute and hypothetical necessity in order to save human freedom while at the same time determining the world. David Hume reduces determinism to statistical probability. He is one of the first representatives of compatibilism. He differentiates between freedom of action and free will. He rejects free will, as this would be a coincidence. He allows freedom of action to man as a possibility to act according to the will. The classic definition of causality also goes back to him, but he only used it as a kind of working hypothesis.

Kant speaks of the will as the causality of reason, by which is meant the ability to act according to principles. For him, determinism and indeterminism are compatible. They refer to the relationship between free will and causality, which, according to the third antinomy, can only be resolved in the realm of practical philosophy. The individual's freedom of will is the prerequisite for his or her moral talent and obligation. For Kant, causality is a pure concept of understanding which can only be applied to appearances and which makes experience possible in the first place. While free will is possible for Kant, Schopenhauer rejects it. For him, the essence of man does not lie in thinking or knowing, but in will. The will of the individual, however, is unfree and subordinated to a higher world will that guides the great interrelationships of world events. Nietzsche describes the freedom of the will as an error that is based on the will to power. In his opinion, the human will is subject to the power of nature.

4. Definitions

In order to be able to talk about free will and determinism, a few terms that appear in this context must first be clarified.

Determinism is the doctrine of the determinateness of all world events, including all human life courses. It is the conception of the consistently regular determinacy of reality. It states that all events can be explained from their effective causes and that future events can basically be foreseen. With regard to free will, one can distinguish between hard and soft determinism. Hard determinism, in addition to the possibility of a free decision, also excludes the responsibility of a person for his actions. Soft determinism assumes that human actions are determined, but believes that in the absence of internal and external compulsion, human beings are free in a sense that is sufficient to justify responsibility and justify reward or punishment. The most extreme form of determinism is fatalism, which is an unconditional determinism, a belief in fate that excludes any freedom. The opposite of determinism is indeterminism. This is the doctrine of the causal indeterminacy of states and events, or, in relation to free will, the doctrine of the freedom of human will and action.

Determinism is based on the causal principle. The causal principle states that a causal explanation can be found for every clearly describable state. Generally speaking, this means that every event has a cause. Causality generally denotes the relationship between causation, i.e. the relationship between cause and effect. Various conclusions have been drawn from the causality principle. On the one hand there is the causal-mechanistic worldview. This is an idea of ​​the world according to which all events are causally caused and can be calculated according to the laws of (classical) mechanics. This worldview leads to determinism. In modern physics, however, it experienced limitations in the area of ​​quantum physics, and in this mainly due to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, according to which it is impossible to determine the exact position and momentum of a particle. On the other hand, there is David Hume's thesis of regularity, which states that the connection between two events does not consist of cause and effect, but rather results from a psychological mechanism of human perception. Due to repeated perception, an expectation develops in humans that events will continue to behave in this way. From this one can in no way infer determinism, because this thesis does not present causality as a law of nature.

In contrast to determinism is freedom. The clarification of this term is more difficult than with the ones just mentioned and can probably not be done in final form and certainly not in this concise form. First there is the distinction between negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom means freedom from disabilities such as coercion, causality or fate. Positive freedom is the freedom to do a certain thing, the ability or the possibility to do something or not to do something, a kind of creative freedom. According to Hume, one can distinguish between freedom of action and free will. The free will in the sense of being free from all conditions means that no motives, wishes or character traits influence the decision and is impossible for him. Freedom of action is the ability and ability to do consciously and voluntarily, according to one's own abilities and possibilities with regard to the given circumstances. It is acting according to one's own will without external external determination. Rousseau sees freedom as the basic anthropological determination of man. It is the lack of an instinctive and thus natural determination of the human being. For the existentialists, freedom is the basic ontological determination of man. Freedom of will is man's freedom from internal external determinations, such as passions, affects, drives or inclinations. It can be described as the striving of the will of the person, whereby the goal was explicitly known and intended out of freedom by the willing person himself. The will is therefore a conscious striving for a goal that has its origin in human spontaneity. Whereby the will can only be thought of as free will.

The theory of determinism and the claim to human freedom come into conflict with one another. There are two ways to address this problem. Compatibilism is a theory according to which decisions, decisions and actions can be both free and determined; According to this theory, 'free' and 'determined' are logically compatible terms. A distinction can be made between two types of compatibility. On the one hand there is pseudo-compatibilism, which says that the contradiction between determinism and freedom is a pseudo-problem, both can coexist without coming into conflict with one another; the scope of the definitions of the two terms do not overlap. On the other hand, there is the 'well-understood compatibilism'. Supporters of this view admit the differences between the two concepts, but try to exercise as much freedom as possible with determinism in force. The opposite of compatibilism is incompatibilism, according to which it is not possible for both concepts, that of freedom and that of determinism, to apply at the same time.

Further terms that appear in connection with determinism are decision-making and action. To make a decision means to commit to a certain course of action in the face of alternative possibilities. An action is a purposeful, meaningful act.Motives for actions or decisions can be social or psychological causes or historical-epochal causes, but they can also be caused by simple physico-chemical or biochemical causes.

5. Determinism and indeterminism

There are two extreme positions with regard to determinism. On the one hand, one can be convinced that determinism also applies to human freedom of choice. Man is not free to do, choose, or want what he wants. All of our actions and thoughts are predetermined and inevitable. So nobody can be held responsible for what they do.

The second extreme position is indeterminism. Complete freedom of will means that a person's actions cannot be foreseen or justified by any conditions. No motives, wishes or character traits could restrict the behavior of the acting person, no social, psychological or historical-epochal causes of his actions could be found that explain this. His behavior could neither be assessed by social norms nor by his previous actions, behavior or attitudes. Such a person would not be free, but at best, if at all possible, a fool that is dangerous to the public. Nor could he be held responsible for his actions, as he cannot give any reasons for his behavior at all. But assuming responsibility means being able to justify one's actions.

The representatives of indeterminism, like the representatives of determinism, must admit that humans are not responsible for what they do. Since, as just shown, completely free human beings are impossible, one could, in order to save freedom and create an authority that is responsible, assume that human beings are partly free in their decisions and partly bound by certain reasons. This attitude, however, again amounts to indeterminism, since then ultimately only the part that is free is responsible for the decisions of the person and this part cannot be justified. It seems that the only option is determinism. So in the following I will examine determinism more closely.

6. The determinism problem

a. Reasoning for determinism

i. General explanation of the deterministic theory

The concept of determinism was developed in the natural sciences in the early modern period. It is based on two assumptions: first, that every physically detectable state is the effect of a cause that can in principle be precisely determined and, second, that nature is not subject to any random fluctuations or arbitrary acts, that all processes with regularity according to those inherent in nature and immutable laws take place. Mathematics offers the ideal form of representation for determinism. The 'Laplace demon' expresses this attitude very well: “An intelligence which for a given moment knew all the forces at work in nature as well as the mutual position of the elements that make up them, and which would moreover be comprehensive enough to allow analysis to take on the given magnitudes subject would encompass in the same formula the motions of the largest celestial bodies as of the lightest atom; nothing would be uncertain for her, the future and the past would be open to her. "7

The statements of determinism are only valid in the mathematical model. While all initial conditions must be known in the mathematical model in order to make statements, in reality the results come about through measurements. A mapping rule must be found for the transfer of the measured values ​​into the mathematical model in order to be able to develop a useful physical theory.8

The adoption of determinism was thus an important step in asking questions of nature that were uniform in form. With the help of determinism one can predict a great many processes that are repeated in nature. It can even be necessary for survival in order to be able to predict dangers that always follow the same pattern. In the natural sciences, determinism made a decisive contribution to the explanation of physical phenomena and to the advances which the technical achievements of modern times made possible.

In the twentieth century the theory of quantum mechanics was developed, in which determinism has no validity. However, this had no effect on the validity of determinism in its classic field of application.

Regarding the application and validity of determinism in the natural sciences, it should be noted that it is based on the causal principle. However, the causal principle is not a scientific theory, as it does not meet the conditions for falsifiability.9 It is just an approach, a belief, with which to conduct empirical research. It is an 'a priori' formulated standard or procedure. This principle suits our way of knowing about nature. It says less about nature than about the way in which you can deal with it. It can be a guideline for the conduct of the research or a yardstick for evaluating the results of the research. In this sense it is not a natural principle, it merely provides a maxim for action or a strategy of thought.

ii. Determinism related to human will

Determinism has now been transferred from the realm of natural science to the realm of practical philosophy. Steffan Ritzenhoff puts together three assumptions from which the representatives of determinism in philosophy proceed:10 First, a determinate event is defined as a caused event. It is subject to the causal principle. Furthermore, the continuity claim must apply, which says that no event stands on its own, but always in connection with other events. Both statements, the causal principle and the assertion of continuity, however, say nothing about the unambiguousness of the connection between two events. Second, it is claimed that knowing the initial condition and the laws of nature can predict a determined event. The laws of nature in this context are the laws of causation. While the causal principle only states the 'that' of the connection between two events, the causal laws are intended to explain the 'how' of the sequence of events. The causal laws also provide a quantitative connection between the events and thus allow forecasts. These natural laws should be unambiguous and consequently unambiguous prognoses must be possible, at least in principle. Everything that happens is therefore necessary and what has not happened is also really impossible. Thirdly, it is finally stated that one can understand determined events by classifying the laws they obey in a larger, non-contradicting context. As many events as possible should be subsumed under one pattern. We should place nature and ourselves under one premise. Causality is seen as the overriding principle. It should be noted, however, that the way in which humans cognize and the way nature works are placed under the same paradigm. A working principle or a knowledge aid in dealing with nature is understood at the same time as the truth about the construction of nature.

Despite this problem with the transfer of determinism into the field of philosophy, this thesis has found many adherents. In the following I would like to present a clear argument for determinism. It is the work of Ted Honderich who took a clear position on this problem for the validity of determinism in relation to human will.11

In principle, Honderich explains determinism in such a way that effects are necessarily produced by a complex of causal conditions. With regard to human decision-making and action, the formulation of his deterministic theory is as follows: “Every mental event, including decisions or decisions, is associated with a simultaneous neural event, because the two are nomic correlates. Since the neural event has occurred, the spiritual event has also occurred independently of the rest of the event, and without the spiritual event the neural event would not have occurred. Each such psycho-neural pair is the effect of a causal series whose first complex of causal conditions contains neural and physical initial events as well as certain environmental events. Every action, understood in a general sense of the word, is the effect of a causal series, the first complex of which includes a psychoneural couple, which in turn includes an active intention. "12

This means that our actions are explained by our desires, beliefs, etc., as well as by the neural processes in our heads, i.e. have both psychological and neural causes. Each of these two events, the psychological and the neural, belong to a complex of causal conditions. Every decision is thus the effect of a causal chain, the elements of which, unless they are at the beginning or at the end, are both cause and effect. The starting point of this causal chain are neural and physical events, as well as environmental influences, which acted on the person concerned, and indeed during the whole life of this person. Thus, the human being cannot be held responsible for his decisions in any sense, since he is not responsible for the events and the influences. For free will and thus responsibility of a person, Honderich calls for an initial trigger outside of this causal chain, which he can at best imagine as having a relationship to the decision that cannot be traced back further or cannot be analyzed. However, he doubts the existence of these first triggers. His assumptions are based on findings from neuroscience, which provides evidence that strengthens the determinism thesis.

My opinion on this thesis is that it stands on quite shaky feet, since the mental-neural pairs on which he bases his argumentation are theses and not facts. They come from theories of neuroscience. You can only determine it indirectly or postulate it theoretically. They are probably good tools for explaining thought processes in the context of neuroscience. But they are of no use to decide whether a person has free will or not.

b. Problems in adopting the theory of determinism

i. The attitude towards others

While there are reasonable doubts as to the transferability of determinism to the field of philosophy, in this section I would like to assume that determinism applies and consider what the consequences of it would be. First of all, I would like to talk about the consequences that arise in society. A consequence that has already been mentioned many times and that arises from the assumption of the correctness of determinism is that it is no longer possible to hold someone responsible for one's actions. If one can no longer trace back decisions to a person himself, but only sees them as the result of an infinitely long causal chain, then it is not justified to hold this person responsible for their decision or for their actions. The conclusion is that there is no longer any moral justification for punishment. The only justification for punishment is education or deterrence. The aim of education is to ensure that the person concerned does not behave like this again. However, this would be comparable with the upbringing or, to put it bluntly, with the training of an animal. Deterrence is a way of making an example of one person so that the majority of other people are discouraged from doing the same. However, neither of these arguments can justify the punishment against the person concerned. The punishment remains unjust towards the person, since the latter can ultimately do nothing for their actions, they could only act in this way. The punishment can only be justified in a utilitarian theory, according to which the punishment increases the happiness of a greater number of people while acting unfairly towards a person.

Ted Honderich also rejects the theory of retribution, which is justified by society's desire for satisfaction, as a justification for punishment, because it loses its legitimacy through the application of determinism.13 He accepts justifications for punishment that say that punishment has a preventive effect or that it is based on a utilitarian theory. His legitimacy for punishment, however, is based on the fact that punishment is justified once it is in accordance with the moral principle of equality. Care should be taken to ensure that those who are bad are better off. However, he owes the reader the justification for this justification. He mentions attitudes that need to be changed when it comes to rewarding law-abiding citizens, distributing income and wealth, conferring positions of power and ranks, and officially expressing praise and blame as further effects of determinism in society.

In this sense, the assumption that determinism is correct also collides with the basic principles of the democratic free society in which we live. This social order is based on the fact that everyone is responsible for what they do. Everyone can freely decide what they want to do and must also bear the consequences for it. The responsible citizen is responsible for his actions in a positive sense, that is, that he can shape his future freely, and in a negative sense, that means that he can be held accountable for his actions. If it is now assumed that this freedom does not exist, but is merely imaginary, or is only written in the laws, there is a conflict, both with the political self-image of our society and with legal practice.

ii. The personal reaction

When speaking of the effects of determinism, most people probably think of the social effects first; the fact that praise and blame as well as punishment would be pointless in the case of the correctness of determinism and would lose their justification. However, the implications that the acceptance of the truth of determinism has on each individual's personal life are, in my opinion, far more serious.

Honderich lists four areas in which determinism affects personal life.14 These are the hopes in life, the personal feelings, the moral feelings and the certainty of knowledge. We usually assume that the future is something open, non-fixed, or changeable. One wants to change this future. We use a large part of our life energy to shape our future. This is also linked to hopes that we will achieve what we set out to do or that we can improve our situation. These feelings are disappointed when determinism is true. Our future is already fixed and there is nothing we can do about it. Personal feelings that we have towards others are also affected by determinism. These can be positive feelings of appreciation or negative feelings of indignation. As described in the previous section, moral feelings are also affected by determinism. If the determinism is correct, they have no basis whatsoever. Our attitude towards research is also changed in the case of determinism being true. So far we have believed that we were discovering something new and that we ourselves can influence what we discover, that the result depends on our personal assessment and judgment. If determinism is correct, research is only the piecemeal uncovering of previously existing truths.

In response to this interference of determinism in our personal lives, Honderich sees two possibilities. This is both dismay and intransigence. The dismay is an unpleasant fact - hopes are shattered, personal feelings are inhibited, the apprehension of reality is questioned, some form of moral disapproval is made impossible, and some form of self-respect is denied. Intransigence means that while I believe the determinism was true, the consequences of that would not affect me. I could go on living as I have before without the knowledge that the world and my life are determined having any impact on me. In doing so, however, according to Honderich, you succumb to a deception.15 You can't just go on and pretend nothing has happened. If one reacts in this way now and then, one gets entangled in contradictions and there is also a certain instability in this situation. So you are in a multiple quandary. Honderich therefore suggests a third possible response, the affirmation. We should try to adapt to the situation in which we find ourselves, the fact of the truth of determinism. Honderich describes this attempt as a philosophy of life.In doing so, one should give up what is incompatible with determinism, partly by recognizing the value of what does not need to be given up, partly by perceiving every possible balance that determinism has to offer. However, he does not write how this can actually be achieved. If he claims: "Now we have the prospect of refraining from negative or indignant feelings (...) positive or benevolent personal feelings directed towards other people"16 if one can keep it, however, this suggestion seems to me like a kind of consolation, but it can hardly be implemented.

I think Honderich is a little too lax with the consequences of determinism, he plays down the personal reactions to the thesis. He believes that in the sense of intransigence it is possible to live with the awareness of the correctness of determinism without drawing consequences. I disagree. I believe that determinism is incompatible with our daily life, which we lead, with our life practice. It is only conceivable to accept determinism as an abstract theory, but it is by no means conceivable to take it into account in practical life decisions. The motivation for our feelings, hopes or intentions, our communication with one another and our social togetherness is only possible because we are firmly convinced that we have, at least in principle, a free will, we can change the future and our life is not predetermined. Any other conviction would be unbearable and, in all its consequences, not practicable. It is true that free will can be limited by all sorts of constraints, be they external constraints emanating from other people or those arising from restrictive circumstances in the environment, or internal ones, be they psychological or collision with other desires, but in principle free will must be in our lives - conception occur. Without the belief that we can change the future, all of our actions would be pointless.

c. Compatibilism

Ted Honderich has claimed that there is no free will, that it is an illusion. Determinism excludes free will. Peter van Invagen also demonstrated the incompatibility of free will and determinism using conditional logic.17 However, other philosophers disagree. For them, determinism and free will are very compatible. This position is called compatibilism. The earliest advocates of this view were Thomas Hobbes and David Hume.18

George Edward Moore joins the argument of the latter.19 He refers to the two meanings of the expressions "can" and "not can". On the one hand, “can” is used in the meaning of “having the ability to do something”, as a demarcation from something that one is not able to do. As an example, he says: I could have walked two kilometers in twenty minutes this morning, but I certainly couldn't have walked four kilometers in five minutes. When the term is used with this meaning it means that I could have acted differently if I had chosen differently. In this sense there is free will; one could have behaved differently if one had made a different decision. According to Moore, this fact is by no means incompatible with the principle that everything has a cause. The second meaning of the term “can” occurs in this principle, namely that nothing could ever have happened otherwise than it happened.

By referring to two use cases of “can”, it is possible that determinism and free will exist at the same time. However, the unanswered question of this thesis is what my decision about which action to take depends on. It has only been stated that I could have made a different choice, not whether this decision was generated by free will.

Moritz Schlick very clearly described the question of the compatibility of determinism and free will as a pseudo-problem.20 Schlick assumes the causal principle also in the area of ​​human behavior. In order to reconcile this statement with the assumption of free will, he lists a whole series of confusions to which the proponents of the assumption that causality and free will are incompatible have succumbed. First of all, he refers to the two meanings of the word "law": In one sense, the word refers to a law which a state enacts and which is compulsory for the citizens of this state due to the sanctions for non-compliance with this law. On the other hand, there are the laws of nature. These do not exert any compulsion, but only describe processes and conditions in nature. With the statement that the will obeys a law, it is not meant that it is subjected to compulsion, but that it obeys a natural law which describes the desires and motives. The same applies to the term 'necessity'. 'A law is necessary' does not describe any inescapable compulsion, but simply states that a law of nature applies in general, which means that there are no exceptions. Schlick sees another confusion in the way some people perceived the relationship between ethics and the question of determinism or indeterminism. With regard to this question, ethics is only interested in the laws of action and the extent to which they are subject to causality. Human moral freedom has nothing to do with the problem of determinism. Freedom, according to Schlick, is the opposite of compulsion, the ability to act according to one's own wishes. For him, of course, people are responsible for their actions. The causal chain goes far back in time, but "'perpetrator" means the person on whom the motive should have started in order to reliably prevent (or cause) the act ".21 In order to justify responsibility, he rules out indeterminism, since the justification of his actions is necessary for responsible action.

Max Planck also describes the debate about free will as a pseudo problem. He represents what is known as epistemic indeterminism. Planck assumes that determinism applies and that this can also be transferred to the human mind. The human will is therefore causally determined. But Planck differentiates between knowing and willing. In principle, it is possible to recognize the will in its entire determination, but only from a completely uninvolved objective observer with divine intelligence. This would have to behave completely passively, as otherwise it would influence the will decision. In order to foresee one's own volitional actions, consciousness would have to be split into two parts: the knowing I and the willing I. The knowing ego would have to be independent of the willing ego, otherwise it would influence it. By including this influence in the deliberations of the knowing ego, there would be an infinite regress. However, this separation is not possible, at least for future voluntary decisions. According to Planck, decisions are not made purely on the basis of his intellectual activity, as this can never come to a final conclusion. At some point the chain of conclusions will be broken and a decision will be made. According to Planck, freedom of will rests “on the fact that a person's will takes precedence over his intellect (...) that his character weighs more than his intellect. The will can be influenced by the mind, but never completely controlled. "22 For him, the opposition between determinism and free will is only an apparent one, since the question of whether the will is causally bound depends on the location. “From the outside, viewed objectively, the will is causally bound; Subjectively viewed from within, the will is free. "23 For him, both approaches stand side by side on an equal footing. Sir Peter Frederick Strawson also takes the view that determinism and free will are compatible.24 It also assumes that determinism is true. However, it shows the complete irrelevance of the unspecified deterministic thesis for our interpersonal and moral attitudes. He differentiates human reactions into those that come about through a participatory attitude and those that come about through an objective attitude. The participating attitude is the attitude that one normally adopts towards others who are fully responsible agents. Excuses such as 'He didn't want to' or 'He couldn't help it' are allowed, but they do not constitute a reason, for example, not to regard an offense as such. The reactive attitudes are accompanied by feelings such as anger, love or gratitude. On the other hand, one takes an objective stance towards people who are not fully sane, such as small children or the mentally ill. The usual reactive attitudes towards them are suspended. Occasionally it is also possible to replace the reactive attitudes with the objective attitudes in relation to the behavior of normals and mature people. However, this is not conceivable for a long time. The reactive attitudes cannot be completely overridden. Participatory or reactive attitudes give way to objective attitudes to the extent that the agent is seen as one excluded from ordinary human relationships by psychological abnormality or by being a child.

The assumption of the deterministic thesis should lead to everyone being viewed exclusively in this way, from an objective point of view. But humans are apparently unable to do this, even if determinism provided a theoretical basis for it. Thus Strawson draws two conclusions: “... the first is that, as we are, we cannot seriously imagine that we could, as a result of theoretical convictions of the truth of determinism, adopt a consistent objectivity of attitudes towards others; and the second is that if we in fact adopt such an attitude in a particular case, it is not the result of a theoretical belief (...) but a consequence of having given up the usual interpersonal attitudes Reasons that differ from case to case. "25 So, according to Strawson, the real question is not what or why we are actually doing something, but what a reasonable course of action would be, a question of a reasonable justification for our actions. But we can only act sensibly by estimating the gains and losses for our or other lives; the truth or falsity of the thesis of determinism, which is the general frame of reference for human life, would have no relevance to the reasonableness of this choice. Ironically, he tries to make this clear by recalling, “that for those who are convinced that the truth of determinism would none the less really make a choice reasonable, there has always been the insurmountable difficulty of explaining in plausible terms how his falsehood would make the opposite choice reasonable. "26 He tries to unite the two positions which result from the assumption of determinism by demonstrating the irrelevance of this theory for interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, there are the pessimists, who claim that if determinism were true, moral obligation and accountability really have no use and the practices of punishment and censure are unjustified. He calls on them to give up their metaphysics and to admit that it is irrelevant for reactive attitudes whether the determinism is correct or not. On the other hand, there are the optimists, who see the practices of praise and punishment as an effective means of controlling social behavior and who justify this even when determinism is in force. The loophole in her argument, the fact that these reactions are justified only by considerations of utility and by no means by morality, Strawson tries to fill in by claiming that these practices are expressions of our moral attitudes and not just means of control used.

d. Criticism of Determinism

i. Doubt about determinism

All compatibilists do not doubt the thesis of determinism. However, Steffen Ritzenhoff takes a different approach to establish human free will. He tries to prove that determinism is wrong, that it is a theory that cannot be applied to the explanation of the human mind. This seems to me to be a sensible way, because if determinism is refuted as a theory, one has to make do with what one cannot doubt through experience, if no other theory is available, and that is empirically experiential free will.

On the one hand, Ritzenhoff describes the limits and the limited applicability of determinism.27 As I indicated above, determinism is a simplification of reality. With the help of determinism one can make complex relationships in nature explainable and understandable. Determinism represents a schema of thought, it provides us with a thought-economic principle in order to be able to grasp events in nature, in order to be able to classify them in theories and ideas. Linked to this, however, is a simplification of the events and the relationships. In order to be able to describe more complex relationships, the modern natural sciences have deviated from determinism. Alternative theories have been developed, such as chaos theory, which can be used to study the unpredictable, the seemingly uncontrollable. The insight has also gained acceptance that the norm, the theoretical abstraction in the deterministic models, is actually an exception that is hardly or never observable, while the deviation from these rigid models is the norm.

Apart from the fact that in modern physics, in quantum mechanics, determinism does not apply anyway, there are also restrictions on the application of this theory for problems in classical mechanics, the 'birthplace' of determinism. Even a simple system in which three bodies interact with one another can no longer be described in an analytical way. Another example of a limitation in the effectiveness of deterministic theory is the solution of nonlinear differential equations. Differential equations are the descriptive equations of the mathematical model of determinism. In the case of non-linear differential equations, the increase in a parameter leads to a disproportionate change in the result. Even simple nonlinear differential equations can produce unstable solutions, a chaotic sequence of states. Most states in nature are described by complex, multiply coupled nonlinear differential equations, since states in nature are not limited to a single law, but different aspects must be taken into account. Thus, chaotic conditions are more the rule than the exception. Determinism also reaches its limits in the theory of non-trivial machines. Non-trivial machines are systems that not only produce an output through an input (trivial machines), but also those in which the internal state, i.e. the properties of the system, is changed through the input. Even non-trivial machines, where the possibilities of input and output are limited to a very small number, react unpredictably.

One can therefore draw the conclusion that determinism is useless in complex systems. Determinism fails in most cases in natural science, even in the area from which this theory originates, classical mechanics. Determinism must fail to an even greater extent in social systems in which the boundary conditions can be formulated much more vaguely than in the natural sciences. Determinism is therefore not suitable for describing complex systems that react with their environment.

ii. Doubts about the transferability of determinism

In order to ban determinism from the field of philosophy, Ritzenhoff shows the impossibility of transferring this thesis.28 Several doubts have been expressed in this work about the transferability of determinism from the field of natural sciences to the field of philosophy. I would now like to put this in more concrete terms. In principle, determinism is just a mathematical model and only applies in the field of mathematics. Empirical confirmation of determinism cannot prove its truth. Since neither the causal principle nor the causal law can be verified and the causal principle cannot even be falsified as an all-statement, they are metaphysical assumptions, that is, beliefs.

Theories in physics do not claim to be true like theories in philosophy. They are only rated for their usefulness. If a theory gives acceptable results, if it helps to gain knowledge, then it is a workable theory. This is what determinism does in many areas of physics. A theory like determinism is thus the expression of a predominant style of thinking.One cannot say that determinism is true, but only that everything is right. Another fact that is accepted in the natural sciences is that there is no theory that describes everything with uniform methods. An important criterion for usability is their relationship to reality. The conclusions that can be drawn from the application of a theory must agree with reality and not the other way around. With regard to human free will, however, determinism does not agree with the reality that we can observe, since we do not see ourselves as “machines” controlled by natural laws, not free, and merely functioning. Instead of starting from determinism, as the advocates of this theory do, and finding a contradiction to free will, which is perceived as an empirically detectable reality, it is just as legitimate to start from free will and to find a contradiction to determinism. When the determinists claim that something that cannot be explained with the help of determinism is simply not yet explainable, determinism becomes a sure-fire success. It is therefore not falsifiable. In this way, advocates of this view are suspected of representing a metaphysics, of creating a metaphysical framework that is even higher than that of natural science. This is in contrast to the assertion of most proponents of determinism, who, when justifying determinism, just refer to the fact that they merely recognize and want to enforce the laws of nature.

In summary, one can say that the stylization of determinism into a universal principle that is generally valid is not permissible, since one gets entangled in contradictions and theory, because it does not provide any useful results and is in contradiction with reality, loses its validity. So determinism cannot be transferred to the field of philosophy. It is not possible to use determinism to prove that human free will does not exist.

7. Ways out and alternatives

a. Alternative explanatory concepts

However, this does not yet prove that free will exists. Ritzenhoff therefore uses a different model than determinism to explain the human will. This is based on more recent explanatory models from the natural sciences.29 These models from the natural sciences are complex dynamic systems based on the principle of self-organization.

Complex systems are mathematical models of time-dependent processes. This describes dynamic systems whose long-term behavior is either extremely dependent on the initial conditions or in which there are singularities, i.e. H. discontinuous changes of state, there.

Self-organization is understood as the spontaneous emergence of new spatial and temporal structures in dynamic systems, which can be traced back to the cooperative action of sub-systems. Self-organization is a process for the emergence of order and complexity out of a system by itself. Self-organization can occur in open systems which are in a state far from thermodynamic equilibrium and to which energy is supplied from the environment. Theoretical concepts for self-organization are dissipative structures, synergetics and autopoiesis.

The research area of ​​synergetics deals with the spontaneous formation of spatial, temporal, spatiotemporal or functional structures in complex systems. These consist of several or many identical or different parts (elements or components) that can themselves be complex. Since these arise without any specific external intervention, one speaks of self-organization. The complex systems are open systems whose function can only be maintained by transporting energy or matter. The systems are influenced by unspecific control parameters. The system can lose its stability at certain values. Application examples for synergetics are laser technology or fluid mechanics, sub-areas of chemistry, biology, ecology or computer science, but also sociology or economics.

Autopoiesis is the name given to the property of certain systems to produce and reproduce the elements that make them up. Autopoiesis can be used in the field of neurobiology or can serve as a model for life processes to describe chemical systems.

Dissipative structures give a name for those thermodynamic systems and processes that are no longer in the vicinity of thermodynamic equilibrium or take place there, but exist in a stable state that is far removed from thermodynamic equilibrium, only with a progressive exchange of substances and energy with the environment which has developed from an originally unstable state, but after a certain time is stationary, or also spatially and temporally periodic and then has a 'higher' order.

Ritzenhoff does not adopt these models for his theory, to describe the will, but was simply inspired by these theories.30

b. Self-organizational will

In his theory of the will, Ritzenhoff depicts the will as a complex event.31 He dispenses with ways of explaining determinism based on linear causality. Instead, he was inspired by self-organization and autopoiesis in his explanatory model and used circular causality, i.e. H. mutually influencing components, ahead. With the help of these models he can prove the free will and thus provide a useful theory.

First of all, he shows that the will cannot be thought of as unfree. Since an unfree will would be a compulsion, one could no longer speak of will. With an unfree will, the ego would only be an indefinite, at most technical expression that describes the physical and biological limits. The ego would be restricted to a transit point in a causal chain and self-perception would only be a reflection of the law. We would only see ourselves in the horizon of law-like processes and would therefore always experience ourselves as already established. There would be no scope for explanations, interpretations or interpretations of one's own behavior and that of others. But this contradicts the self-experience, the impression we have of ourselves. From this Ritzenhoff draws the conclusion that will and freedom are related to one another. On the one hand, the will cannot be constructed as unfree; on the other hand, freedom is inconceivable without the will. An unfree will would be a contradiction in terms.32

For this reason Ritzenhoff rejects determinism. He bases his idea of ​​free will on the theory of complex dynamic systems, since it shows a similarity to the problem of human will, on the one hand because it can refer to a system without reducing it to the sequence of universalistic laws On the other hand, because the circular causality dissolves the rigid structures of linear contexts of justification and avoids the need for a God perspective and thirdly, this theory creates autonomous systems whose behavior can only be understood from the respective special system. Another reason for the assumption of free will is for him the statement that a will is always a human will and as human being it cannot be described by means of event causality. In this sense, freedom is not meant in the sense of a mathematical degree of freedom, but refers to the self-determination of people. Self-determination of people can only be determined in mutual social cooperation between people. This is only possible through mutual attribution and acceptance of changes, i.e. with acceptance of responsibility.

Next, Ritzenhoff defines the will by setting its limits. He first establishes that the will is indeed expressed. However, not every act suggests a will. The will needs a resistance against which it can form. He sets the will a lower limit below which there is no resistance and the act is only a purely mechanical act and an upper limit above which the will can no longer succeed; then we no longer speak of wanting, but of desires. Knowledge also has an effect on the will, too much knowledge excludes the will, since the will can no longer be formed without uncertainty. Likewise, too little knowledge excludes wanting, since without knowing about feasibility, wanting becomes wishing again. So wanting is a complex process in which several levels work together that belong to different descriptive and explanatory models. Like Erpenbeck, he differentiates between the will to drive and the will to make decisions.33 Spontaneity expresses itself in the will to make decisions, which, like Heckhausen, he describes with the metaphor of crossing the Rubicon.34 On this side we are in a phase of the formation of the will. We live in motives. Beyond, one is in a phase of determination. The motifs are actually realized. Ritzenhoff sees this as an analogy to complex dynamic systems. On this side, the 'indecisive' system has no order, is without alignment. It can then be brought into a certain orderly state by making small changes.

The supposed contradiction that the representatives of determinism believe to have discovered in free will, that the subject of free will represents a logical impossibility, because on the one hand it must not be determined and on the other hand, if it is to be made responsible for its decisions as a free individual Ritzenhoff resolves that it has to justify its decisions and thus places itself back in the context of causality by referring to actor causality. Then the causal chains begin and end in the human being. The causes of a person's action are due to him and no further. He sees the human being as a self-organized system on which causes from outside can act, but these cannot condition or determine it. It is an autonomous system.

Ritzenhoff also sees a confirmation of his model in everyday ascription practice. A truly spoken “Because I wanted it” is sufficient in people's everyday dealings to attribute actions to someone. This statement is usually the ultimate reason for an act, which can no longer be questioned. The demands of the social environment on a decision do not even want complete rationality. In order to build a successful, reciprocal relationship, one must give the other the freedom of will-making decisions. In this context he leads the two bodies that Tugendhat has assumed for the formation of will35, on: In his opinion, the penultimate authority in the decision-making process must be the ability to act deliberately in order to guarantee the minimum reliability requirements that are important for social interaction. The last instance, however, must not be reason, but the personality-creating, specifically subjective will in order to create an individuality. So the will is a prerequisite for the I, just as the I is a prerequisite for the will. This connection is well described by the two aspects of Waismann's will: the personality-charged and the personality-creating will.36

8. Conclusion

That I personally tend to agree with Steffan Ritzenhoff can be seen in this work. Still, I find Ted Honderich's book interesting. It deals with issues that should not be overlooked when dealing with this problem. He gave a clear argument for determinism and pointed out its consequences. He has provided arguments to deal with in this context. After all, no one has yet proven that determinism is wrong, and it is not that easy to prove. Attitudes towards determinism could be described as a question of faith, or at least it is related to the way one approaches a problem. Thus, determinism is a position that will continue to be held by many people in the future. In this sense, Honderich's book makes sense and offers valuable arguments on the subject.

Even though Ritzenhoff argued very convincingly against determinism, he was able to answer the question posed by Thomas Nagel - Could I have done something other than what I did under the same circumstances? - dont answer. But it has been proven that this question is irrelevant. It is not empirically possible to find an answer to this. There is no attempt to show whether or not to act the same in exactly the same circumstances, since it is impossible to create exactly the same circumstances. In theory, as a hypothesis, this question is wrongly asked. It cannot be said - Could I have done anything other than what I did under the same circumstances? - but - where did the decision to act like this come from and am I the author of this decision? - Ritzenhoff gave a clear answer to this, namely that we are responsible for our decisions, at least in principle. In addition, he successfully refuted the possibility of objection of determinism, a theory from natural science, in relation to free will and thus refuted practical philosophy from the "undeserved defensive position against scientific methodology"37 fetched.

However, proving that determinism does not apply in the field of free will does not refute determinism. The main statement of this theory, namely that all events have a cause and are themselves causes for other events, is nevertheless true. But the conclusion drawn by the proponents of determinism in philosophy that man has no free will is not admissible. Determinism is a process description for natural science and is used to decipher and explain physical phenomena. However, it does not stand as the supreme law over phenomena, but is only a model that is valid as long as it can be used to describe nature in a meaningful way. He is not able to explain everything in the world, other explanatory models are sometimes more useful. The model of circular causality and complex dynamic systems is more favorable for many applications. When applying these models to explain free will, one could raise the same objections as with determinism. These models also come from the natural sciences and thus represent something similar to determinism. With this, however, one can describe the phenomenon of human decisions and actions much better than with determinism, which denies free will. However, these theories are not powerful proof of free will either. Ritzenhoff has proven that the objection of determinism with regard to freedom of will is not admissible, but in proving this one can accuse him of a circular conclusion: He assumes free will and seeks the explanatory model among many possible which confirms this. The problem that there is a possibility that humans only believe that they have free will is not yet solved. Because Ritzenhoff's theory, like the theory of determinism, has no claim to be true. Ritzenhoff proceeds in exactly the same way as researchers in the natural sciences. He judges the theory according to its usefulness and not according to its truthfulness. But philosophy traditionally seeks the truth. However, if one places such high demands on the solution of this problem, it will probably never be finally solved, so that generations of philosophers will be able to deal with it in the future.


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Heckhausen, Heinz; Gollwitzer, Peter M .; Weinert, Franz E. (Hgs.): Beyond the Rubicon: The will in the human sciences. Berlin 1987.

Honderich, Ted: How free are we? The determinism problem. Stuttgart 1995.

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Inwagen, Peter van: The incompatibility of free will and determinism. In: Pothast 1978.

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Mittelstraß, Jürgen: The poor will: To the history of suffering of the will in philosophy. In Heckhausen 1987.

Moore, George Edward: Basic Problems of Ethics. (Beck’s black series, vol. 126) Munich 1975.

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Planck, Max: On the essence of free will. In: Pothast 1978.

Pothast, Ullrich (ed.): Seminar: Free action and determinism. Frankfurt 1978.

Ritzenhoff, Steffan: The freedom of will. Arguments against the possibility of objecting determinism. Munich 2000.

Schlick, Moritz: When is a person responsible? In: Pothast 1978. Strawson, Peter Frederick: Freedom and take ill. In: Pothast 1978.

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1 See Nagel 1990. pp. 41ff

2 See Honderich 1995.

3 See Ritzenhoff 2000.

4 See Arendt 1979.

5 See Erpenbeck 1993.

6 Mittelstraß 1987. p. 36.

7 Laplace 1990. p. 378.

8 See Ritzenhoff 2000. p.31ff.

9 See also p. 39.

10 See ders, p. 41ff.

11 See Honderich 1995.

12 p. 80.

13 ders. p. 172ff.

14 See also p. 117ff.

15 See also p. 155ff.

16 ders. p. 168f.

17 See Inwagen 1978.

18 See Hume 1973.

19 See Moore 1975.

20 See Schlick 1978.

21 ders.p. 164.

22 ders. p. 283.

23 ders. p. 284.

24 See Strawson 1978.

25 ders. p. 216.

26 ders. p. 224.

27 See Ritzenhoff 2000. pp. 84ff.

28 See also p. 72ff.

29 See also p. 99ff.

30 Comp. P. 121.

31 See also p. 119ff.

32 See also Arendt 1998, p. 253.

33 See Erpenbeck 1993. p. 21.

34 See Heckhausen 1987. pp. 6f.

35 See Tugendhat 1979, p. 242.

36 See Waismann 1983, p. 76.

37 Ritzenhoff 2000. p. 169.