The question of freedom of human action within the causal necessity of the physical world involves intense philosophical debate. Freedom of action is believed to be an uncaused freedom in so far as it involves accountability of an individual’s voluntary deeds. However, given that all the events in nature are causally necessitated by other physical events, it is hard to defend an uncaused freedom of action. Compatibilism attempts to reconcile freedom and causation by projecting the idea of an unconstrained freedom while rejection the idea of
an uncaused freedom. Thus, the compatibilist philosophers contend that our deliberations and ensuing actions are free even if they are caused by external events, as far as we can act as we want. In case we act against our wants, in a constrained or compelled situation, we may not be free. However, freedom within the causal necessity seems impossible. For, even where one may willingly act as one wants, without constraint, the chain of causality may render it necessitated, and thus predictable. Thus, freedom to act as one wants further requires ‘freedom to act otherwise than what one wants’. So, we are back to the age old dilemma of an uncaused freedom against the causal necessity of physical nature! If one could not have acted otherwise than what one did, there is no distinction left between constrained and unconstrained actions. Thus, the possibility of ‘acting otherwise’ by ‘thinking otherwise’ without being caused to do so by factors beyond reason, is the prerogative of a rational agent, without which actions are indistinguishable from natural events.
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Copyright (c) 2012 Zahoor H. Baber