The Question Of Human Freedom

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The Question Of Human Freedom

  1. 1. THE QUESTION OF HUMAN FREEDOM Are human beings really free?
  2. 2. Our Hero <ul><li>Who loves a doughnut more than Homer Simpson? When Homer wakes up, though, does he freely choose to have a doughnut for breakfast? Or does he have a doughnut simply because he has 17 doughnuts every morning for breakfast? </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Since it is so small, we had better define some words for poor Homer. </li></ul>The Homer Simpson Brain
  4. 4. Habits <ul><li>Unfortunately, Homer has some bad habits. </li></ul><ul><li>A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. </li></ul><ul><li>[www.dictionary.com] </li></ul>
  5. 5. Some Good Habits <ul><li>Homer is concerned about his personal hygiene. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Some Good Habits <ul><li>Homer spends time with his wife Marge. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Homer Has Some Good Habits
  8. 8. But Homer has some bad habits . . .
  9. 9. Homer is a little lazy . . . <ul><li>He is a couch potato. </li></ul>
  10. 10. He likes doughnuts (a little too much)
  11. 11. Habits <ul><li>Cardinal Virtues </li></ul><ul><li>Courage </li></ul><ul><li>Justice </li></ul><ul><li>Temperance </li></ul><ul><li>Prudence </li></ul><ul><li>Theological Virtues </li></ul><ul><li>Faith </li></ul><ul><li>Hope </li></ul><ul><li>Love </li></ul><ul><li>Greed </li></ul><ul><li>Laziness </li></ul><ul><li>Lust </li></ul><ul><li>Rash Judgment </li></ul><ul><li>Good Habits are Called Virtues </li></ul><ul><li>Bad Habits are called vices </li></ul>
  12. 12. Types of Ideas about Human Freedom <ul><li>The modern world often defines “freedom” as “doing whatever one wants”. </li></ul><ul><li>This kind of “freedom” is more precisely defined as “license” or “freedom of indifference” (Pinckaers). </li></ul><ul><li>True freedom is not license. License is unbridled, excessive, undisciplined freedom that abuses true liberty. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Types of Ideas about Human Freedom <ul><li>True freedom serves what is good, just and true. </li></ul><ul><li>True freedom is when we follow the Good. </li></ul><ul><li>True freedom makes us more human, in the image and likeness of God. </li></ul><ul><li>True freedom is often exercised by limiting our license. </li></ul><ul><li>[Your parents got up in the middle of the night when you were sick to make you feel better. You knew then they loved you, and they became more alive. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Servais Pinckaers, O.P. <ul><li>The power to act freely with excellence and perfection. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognizes inclination towards good. </li></ul><ul><li>Resides in the reason and the will. </li></ul><ul><li>Develops through education and discipline. </li></ul><ul><li>Virtue and habit are essential. </li></ul><ul><li>Open to the common good. </li></ul><ul><li>If the law is founded on the true and good, it creates a structure to enhance freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom of Indifference/ License </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom of Excellence/ True Freedom </li></ul><ul><li>The power to choose between contraries. (This or that) </li></ul><ul><li>Has no need for virtue (only for the moment) </li></ul><ul><li>Is entire from the first moment (feels good only right now) </li></ul><ul><li>Moral law, Natural law and any form of legality is seen as constrictive to freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Synonymous with self-assertion (I always get what I want) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Determinism <ul><li>Human beings are determined by forces they cannot control. </li></ul><ul><li>Religious determinism – God has the power to do anything, he knows everything that has happened, is happening, will happen. As a result, since everything is already seen by God, human beings do not have freedom, they are only doing what they are programmed to do by God. </li></ul><ul><li>Rejected by most religions, but supported by John Calvin (1509-1564). Sometimes referred to as predestination . </li></ul>
  16. 16. Determinism <ul><li>Human beings are determined by forces they cannot control. </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific determinism – Sir Isaac Newton was a strong proponent in what could be called physical determinism . The entire universe is governed by physical laws, such as gravity, so there is no real freedom. Even human beings, because they are physical in nature, are without freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>Biological/Genetic Determinism . The law of nature, or genetic makeup controls human beings. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Determinism <ul><li>Human beings are determined by forces they cannot control. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical, Cultural or Social Determinism – Georg W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) believed we are neither responsible for nor able to control the period of culture or history into which we are born, since there is an inevitable force in nature. The character and actions of an individual are completely determined by current culture and preceding culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Economic/Social Determinism . Karl Marx (1818-1883) The economic class into which we are born determines in every way human nature. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Determinism <ul><li>Human beings are determined by forces they cannot control. </li></ul><ul><li>Psycholocial Determinism – Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Human beings are determined, even prior to birth in the womb, by unconscious minds and natural drives that society’s mores require them to repress. Oeduipus Complex (All sons are in love with their mothers) or Electra Complex (all daughters are in love with their fathers). </li></ul><ul><li>Economic/Social Determinism . Karl Marx (1818-1883) The economic class into which we are born determines in every way human nature. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Hard Determinism <ul><li>If you trace all actions back far enough, you can prove that basic causes of things are never really in human control. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, let us say that Mary Smith is born in the 1930’s to a middle-class working family, during the great depression. Already she has no control over the century or culture into which she is born, the depression her country is in, her economic class, or most important, th egenetic makeup inherited from her parents. She could be born crippled, blind, or quite normal; she has no control over this, either. Let us say that she is born blind, and that her father is an alcoholic and her mother a child abuser. Let us also assume that, due to these factors, she endures a miserable childhood that leads to a miserable adult life. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Hard Determinism <ul><li>Mary may react, out of anger at her lot, by becoming a criminal, resorting to violence against both men and women in an attempt to avenge herself for the treatment she received from her mother and father. </li></ul><ul><li>The problem with this? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We excuse human choices – we all become victims. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mary may in fact lead a blameless life. Many people overcome terrible childhoods and circumstances to lead outstanding lives. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hard determinists would answer that regardless of what Mary chose, there is a circumstantial answer for why she turned out the way she did. She only reacted to external forces. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Soft Determinism/Indeterminists <ul><li>Events are largely controlled, but there is still a limited degree of human freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeterminists argue there is a small amount of freedom and chance. William James (1842-1910) argues that our feeling of regret and our strivings for good imply freedom. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Arguments for Freedom <ul><li>If hard determinism is true, there is no point in a moral system, since human beings have no control over their actions. </li></ul><ul><li>If soft determinism or indeterminism are true, then human beings are free some of the time, which means they are, in fact, free. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Arguments for Freedom <ul><li>While human beings sometimes fall prey to circumstance, environment, genetics, etc., this does not prove that human beings are never free. </li></ul><ul><li>If soft determinism or indeterminism are true, then human beings are free some of the time, which means they are, in fact, free. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Arguments for Freedom <ul><li>We can discuss that there are degrees of complexity. Humans are more complex than a rock, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>The idea of a moral system implies that we are, in fact, free. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Arguments for Freedom <ul><li>There are instances where we are controlled by external circumstances, but our response to these circumstances is within our control. </li></ul><ul><li>Sources: </li></ul><ul><li>Thiroux, Jacques. (1998) Ethics: Theory and Practice. (6 th Edition). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. </li></ul>

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