When Edward O. Wilson first outlined the discipline of sociobiology and applied some of its ideas to human beings and their behavior, one of the concerns graphically described in the popular media was that of human freedom. In the minds of many the notion that genes hold culture on a leash was the latest but not the only reason to believe that all human behavior was determined, not free.
When the idea of genetic determination of human activity is coupled with that of societal determinism through enculturation, the issue is raised as to whether humans have any real say in their own significant life decisions. Even though we may introspectively feel we are freely deciding, the idea that we are both genetically and socially conditioned creatures raises the fear that such a feeling is only an illusion. Even though traditional social systems of justice often punish wrongdoing on the assumption that people are responsible for their actions—and to be responsible one must freely choose to do the act—the idea of genetic-social determinism raises the specter that there is no real foundation for retributive justice.
The problem of freedom of the will and determinism is one of the most intriguing and difficult in the whole area of philosophy. It constitutes a paradox. If we look at ourselves, at our ability to deliberate and make moral choices, it seems obvious that we are free. On the other hand, if we look at what we believe about causality (i.e., that every event and thing must have a cause), then it appears that we do not have free wills but are determined. Thus we seem to have inconsistent beliefs. In this paper I set forth and analyze the major contemporary arguments for free will and determinism as well as for compatibilism, the position that tries to combine insights from both theories. I end with a brief conclusion regarding my assessment of the status of the arguments.
compatibilism • determinism • freedom • free will • libertarianism • metaphysics
Louis P. Pojman is professor of philosophy at the University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi 38677.
Does Darwinism generally, and human sociobiology in particular, lead to an unwarranted (and possibly socially offensive) determinism? I argue that one must separate out different senses of determinism, and that once one has done this, a Darwinian approach to human nature can be seen to shed important light on our intuitions about free will, constraint, and control.
Darwinism • determinism • free will • human sociobiology
Michael Ruse is professor of history and philosophy at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
On the Evolution of Human Freedom by Karl Schmitz-Moormann
The age-old dilemma of free will and determinism is attacked by proving that both sides are flawed with contingencies, that the notion of eternal law is a theologically tainted projection rather than a reality of the real world that is understood to be evolutionary. Determinism is dissolved into conditionalism. This excludes materialistic scientific explanation of the deterministic style. As it brings forth freedom, evolutionary reality transcends essentially the explanatory possibilities of statistically structured natural laws. The dilemma of determinism and free will based on a logic of contradiction is replaced by an ontology of polarity.
contingent law • determinism • eternal law • evolution • freedom • natural law
Karl Schmitz-Moormann is professor of philosophy and theology, Fachochschule Dortmund, Sonnenstra ße 99, 4600 Dortmund 1, West Germany.
Autonomy and Interrelatedness: Spinoza, Hume, and Vasubandhu by Winnifred A. Tomm
If reason and emotion are taken as inseparable foundational components of human nature, then all knowledge must be characterized by both objective description and subjective, felt experience. If that is the case, then it is impossible for autonomy to be described in terms of rational knowledge, independent of affective response. Accordingly, autonomy and interdependence are mutually inclusive terms. Following the assumption that reason and emotion are integrally related in human understanding, morality can be explained by reference to both rational principles and emotive, unreflected experience. Spinoza, Hume, and Vasubandhu provide three different but compatible views of moral development based on their views of the mutually informing effect of reason and emotion on motivation for action. In contrast to Kant, they describe the morally autonomous person as one who is directed by personal interests shaped by a consciousness of the context of emerging interrelated conditions. It is a context in which individual self-expression is a function of receptivity and responsiveness to the expression of others.
emotion • Hume • morality • reason • Spinoza • Vasubandhu
Winnifred A. Tomm is an instructor in the department of religious studies at the University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. She wishes to acknowledge the support for research for this paper provided by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, University of Calgary, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow 1986-87.
The last century has witnessed a succession of revolutionary transformations in the discipline of biology. However, the rapid expansion of our understanding of life and its nature has had curiously little impact on the way that questions about life and its significance have been discussed by philosophers. This paper explores the answers that biology provides to central questions about our existence, and it examines why the substitution of causal explanations for teleological ones appears natural and satisfying in the case of physical theory but meets widespread resistance in the case of biology.
biology and values • human purpose • meaning of life
William Grey has taught philosophy at the Australian National University, Canberra, and Temple University, Philadelphia. His major philosophical interests include environmental philosophy and metaphysics. William Grey is at present working for the Department of Industry, Technology, and Commerce in Canberra. His address is 12 Chowne Street, Campbell, A.C.T., Australia 2601.
Religion and Empiricism in the Works of Peter Berger by Robert C. Fuller
Peter Berger established himself in the sociological profession in large part through his functional interpretations of religion and its ostensible demise in relation to the empirical bent of modern intellectual thought. Yet, in his effort to expand the scope of empiricism such that it might address nontrivial concerns, Berger found himself attempting to understand the substance of religion—that is, the conviction that there exists an other which confronts us unconditionally and consequently forms the basis of all issues concerning value and meaning. Bergers writings deserve critical attention in that they disclose both the problems and the promises of utilizing empirical methods for the task of rehabilitating, rather than debunking, humanitys religious propensities.
Peter Berger • projection, reductionistic versus nonreductionistic views of • radical empiricism versus pietistic empiricism • signals of transcendence • sociology of religion • substantive versus functional definitions of religion
Robert C. Fuller is associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois 61625.
Beyond Objectivism and Relativism by Richard J. Bernstein, reviewed by Ted Peters