By Tibor R. Machan
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Extra resources for A Primer on Ethics
The determinist is thus implicitly saying that it is up to us to decide whether to regard determinism or free will as the better doctrine. This statement, however, assumes that we are free to decide! In other words, we cannot even defend determinism without assuming that we have the power to make choices about arguments, evidence, and the operation of reasoning itself. We encounter this paradox whenever we meet people who blame us for failing to see that people cannot be blamed for their actions because their fate is not in their hands.
First, it is said that moral opinions tend to differ about details, not basics. Then, too, the appearance of diversity is sometimes fostered by individuals who want to obscure moral standards to avoid charges of wrongdoing. Finally, some people, acting as professional devil's advocates, promote skepticism (and the appearance of diversity) by continually testing, questioning, and seeking to verify (these people may avoid acting like skeptics with their children, friends, and political representatives, however).
Support for the existence of free will notwithstanding, outside influences clearly determine human behavior in some cases. A brain tumor, a severe childhood trauma, and an automobile accident are all examples of intrusive forces that sometimes incapacitate people. In addition, attorneys and expert witnesses would sometimes have us believe that people who engage in criminal behavior cannot control their actions. People whose behavior or judgment is involuntary cannot be said to possess free will.
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