||Is determinism the doctrine that every event has a determining or sufficient cause compatible with freedom of action and freedom of will? If determinism is true then everything that happens has a determining cause. My giving money to charity has a determining cause, perhaps my wanting to give money to charity. And my wanting to give money to charity has a determining cause. And that event has a sufficient cause, and so on back to the beginning of time. So if determinism is true, then right back at the beginning of time it was causally determined that I would want to give money to charity and that I would do so. So it would seem that if determinism is true, my want and my action are not free. Determinism seems incompatible with freedom of will and freedom of action.
There are two versions of incompatibilism, the theory that freedom and determinism are incompatible. Libertarians hold that freedom and determinism are incompatible, that we are free and, therefore, that determinism is false. One problem for the libertarian is that indeterminism, mere randomness, seems no more compatible with freedom than determinism. If it is merely up to chance, rather than causally determined what decisions we will make and what actions we will perform, can we really have freedom of will and freedom of action?
Hard Determinists are also incompatibilists. They hold that determinism is true and infer that we are not free.
In contrast, compatibilists or Soft Determinists hold that freedom and determinism are compatible. They give accounts of freedom of action and freedom of will according to which both are consistent with determinism. Compatibilists often hold that freedom of action is the ability to do what one wants to do. Those who are constrained by chains or prison walls are unable to do much of what they want to do. If they want to go to the seaside, they cannot. But those who are not constrained can do what they want to do, even if their wants and actions are causally determined. If I want to go for a day trip, I can. If I want to stay at home, I can. The (supposed) fact that it was causally determined many millennia ago that I would want to go to the seaside and that I would go is irrelevant. I can do what I want to do, so my actions are free.
One natural objection to this is that there seems to be little advantage in having freedom of action unless one also has freedom of will. And if it was causally determined many centuries ago that I would want to go to the seaside, can my will really be free? One is responsible for one\'s actions only if they are free. AJ
See also causation; determinism and indeterminism; responsibility and moral luck.Further reading J. Foster, The Immaterial Self; , P. Van Iuwagen, An Essay on Free Will; , G. Watson, Free Will.