Freedom as Anomaly: A Case against Determinism

How to Cite

Zahoor Babar, Z. (2011). Freedom as Anomaly: A Case against Determinism. Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 50(2), 170–185. Retrieved from


The question of freedom of the human mind in a physically determined nature looms large in philosophical debate, in so far as the status of an individual human being is involved as a free, rational, and moral agent. However, philosophy is confronted with ongoing research in life sciences focusing on the human brain as a seat of all conscious human activity. It becomes a serious philosophical concern to arrive at an acceptable position, keeping in view the scientific explanations. In a sense, the debate is as old as philosophy itself as to whether freedom from natural or physical laws makes sense or not. The question remains unanswered, so far, as to whether we are really free to think and act, believing ourselves to be rational creatures. This question, along with its logical implications, is now looked upon in philosophy as an issue of compatibilism or incompatibilism between freedom and physical determinism of nature. For the
Incompatbilist, human freedom and physical determination of all events are two mutually contradictory views that cannot be reconciled, without being clear as to which one is true. The compatibilist thinks that our view of ourselves as free rational persons is not threatened by physical or neurological explanation of the human brain that show determination of all conscious activity by underlying brain events. The present work is an attempt to focus on a contemporary
influential philosophical position called, ‘anomalous monism’ by Donald Davidson. This view takes its stand on the two parallel paradigms involving the language of mind and language of physics. Davidson seems to contend that bothdomains make sense in their own way, despite the fact that the mental domain is caused by the physical, in so far as the mind is the product of brain processes.This kind of compatibilism seems to rely heavily on the absence of psycho-physical laws that could bridge the gap between the mental and the physical. However, this does not give any assurance as to whether we are really free. For, the causality of the mental phenomenon by the physical phenomenon might involve the possibility of predictability of the mental by the physical. If so, then it would be quite strange to argue that we are still free, in so far as we are consciously engaged in a physical world, merely believing that our attitudes and reasoning cannot be replaced by scientific explanation, just because both languages have different purposes. Still, what Davidson has offered us as a solution to this age old dilemma involves serious issues involving causality,
rationality, morality, freedom, and the supervenience of the mental over the physical. However, whether such a compatibilist monism that stands on materialistic monism succeeds or not remains to be seen. The present paper unfolds these problems by envisaging counter arguments against compatibilism.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Dr Zahoor Babar


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