Determinism and Free Will
People often live without understanding the reasons behind their reactions and behavior. When psychologists and philosophers try to define the factors that make humans act the way they do, there is no single theory that all the researchers accept. Some believe that people exercise free will and are responsible for all their decisions. Others emphasize that circumstances and external conditions lead men to a particular behavior. Determinists say that people’s will power does not influence anything they say, do, or feel, including moral decisions.
Determinism and Consequences
Determinists do not believe that will power can be exercised by humans, even if the illusion of that exists in their consciousness. Instead, this view states that everything people do is a product of nature and culture (ManOfAllCreation, 2017). Every person receives a set of genes that have developed evolutionally. Moreover, people are affected by family, peers, environment, and other external factors. The combination of these two forces ultimately defines the person’s views, reactions, and intentions. The will power is an illusion, and all human actions can be predicted through data analysis.
If determinists are right and people cannot influence their actions, they should not be held responsible for their actions, even illegal or immoral. In reality, the criminal justice system assumes that people have free will and punishes them for activities that are dangerous or cruel to others. If an accused person is clinically insane, they would be directed to a mental health institution to be separated from society since their intentions could be dangerous.
At the same time, they are not locked in jail, prison, or assigned to community service. The modern legal system isolates criminals for life or attempts to correct their social behavior through uncomfortable living conditions, physical labor, and psychological methods. Returning to regular life can only happen after the criminal has realized their mistake. If the determinists are correct, all people who break the law must be put in a mental health facility as they cannot be punished for something predetermined. Additionally, since crime would be predictable, some people would be isolated even before committing a dangerous action to protect society from the negative consequences of their illegal activities.
If determinists are wrong and free will exists, the criminal justice system will stay a complex structure. Even when people exercise their free will and consciously make decisions about breaking the law, the environment influences them. The dangerous home region, criminal environment, neglecting parents – all these factors may direct a person towards performing an illegal action. Unfortunately, creating a harmonized environment for every citizen to be positive and productive is not feasible. Criminal justice aims for a reasonable balance of intentions and circumstances when defining the person’s fault.
I believe that determinism is false because people with similar upbringing can choose different courses of action based on either logic, conscious desire, emotional attachment, or potential scenarios. Such a complicated reaction seems to be unlikely predetermined, especially considering that decisions can be made at the last moment, changed in mid-process, or regretted afterward. Humans go through thousands of thoughts, some conscious, some not, and the functions of their brain neurons always remain partly unpredictable. As Pernu (2017) points out, “mental [realm] is thought to be dependent on, yet distinct from the physical” (p. 1). Researchers cannot measure, analyze, and apply everything regarding human decision making. Thus, I believe that as of today, strict deterministic philosophy denying free will is false.
In conclusion, determinism states that humans cannot exercise free will as all their actions are consequences of genetics and environmental factors. Accepting this philosophy could significantly affect the modern criminal justice system. People would not be held responsible for their actions but would be isolated in mental health institutions if they presented a danger to society. I do not believe that a strict deterministic view is correct or acceptable in today’s world.
ManOfAllCreation. (2017). Determinism vs. free will | Jordan Peterson [Video]. YouTube. Web.
Pernu T. K. (2017). The five marks of the mental. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1-19. Web.