Free-Will Vs Determinism

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Although a popular notion, free will is an illusion. Discuss.

Free will can be described as the ability for human beings to make a choice, thus meaning that humans have a responsibility and control for their actions (Kane, 2005). Determinism, however, is a concept that holds that our actions are pre-determined by both external and internal forces (Dowe, 2002). The debate between free will is and determinism is an important aspect of many disciplines, for example, psychology, religion, and philosophy. The arguments presented in this essay will provide corroborative and contrasting evidence for both free will and determinism from a psychological perspective – using the different approaches within psychology to portray the varying stances on
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Personal agency is a humanistic term that can be likened to the notion of free will. Carl Rogers, the pioneer of humanistic psychology, believed that mental disorders occur when an individual feels as though they have lost control of their lives, and that this control is regained once the individual learns more about their true beliefs and goals (Rogers & Koch, 1959), this “loss of control” is akin to an individual losing their ability to act on their own free will. Although the humanistic approach might show how free will and psychology are compatible, due to the approach’s phenomenological views, it is often regarded as unscientific and vague, as there is no way to concretely measure “personal agency” or free will (Geller, 1982). One of the first neuro-scientific studies into the free-will/determinism argument was conducted by , Kornhuber and Deecke (1976). In their experiment, they discovered a phenomenon – “readiness potential” (RP). When participants were asked to move their fingers, they found that the brain enters a special state prior to conscious awareness, meaning that the movement had been decided by the unconscious mind before the participants were aware of it. This shows that our actions are largely determined by our unconscious, thus contrasting the theory of free will. Libet (1983) ran a similar experiment in which participants were asked to move their finger and concluded that individuals have no free will as far as the initiation of movements is concerned. However, Libet explained that whilst we might not have any control over the predetermined decision to move our finger, we do have the capacity for a “cognitive veto”, meaning, we can resist this decision. Since the evidence for determinism are garnered from neuroscience, and humanistic approach is far less scientific, the evidence for determinism is
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