The Difference Between Free Will and Determinism

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This course seems to build quite a bit on past courses I have taken, such as biopsychology and positive psychology. I guess one of the most relevant ideas I will take away from this week is the difference between free will/determinism and free act/determined act. I had to read this section a few times to really understand what the text was saying. In short, our actions do not exist outside of the influence of motivation, but we do have the ability to choose which motivation to act upon (free will). I would argue heavily against determinism as a psychological perspective or a theory of life. The humanistic understanding of self-actualization has much to say on this point. I was also interested in the admonition that, “…the motives a person desires cannot be attained, and the motives a person does not want realized cannot be rejected” (Deckers, 2005, p. 7). The realization of our motives, the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy, is at its core a mechanism of choice. If it is true that we cannot act outside the confines of motivation, then it is all the more true that we cannot act outside of choice. Choice is the pivotal point on which all actions, and therefore the realization of motivation, hinges. Furthermore, I had never thought of emotions as tied to action of any kind. The Latin seems to imply that emotions are indelibly tied to action though. Almost as if the emotion would exist without the subsequent action. I was also struck by how flush incentives line up with the reinforcement and punishment of Skinnerian operant conditioning. The heart of operant conditioning is the future manipulation of natural responses (operant) through the mechanism of consequences. Incentives seem to be the motivational equivalent of both positive reinforcement and positive punishment.

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Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

One thought on “The Difference Between Free Will and Determinism

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  1. It’s a false problem. Everyone believes in reliable cause and effect, because we experience it every day. Everyone believes in free will, because we observe ourselves and others making choices every day. The most meaningful and relevant causes of our choices are our own purposes and reasons, our own beliefs and values, our own genetic dispositions and life experiences, and all the other things that make us uniquely us. Because these things are “us”, whatever they decide “we” have decided.

    There is no conflict between the fact that our choice was reliably caused and the fact that it was reliably caused by us.

    Liked by 1 person

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