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Lecture Notes: Paul-Henry & Hospers

Determinism: The view that all human actions are determined by preceding causes and
that we can never act otherwise than we do.

Hard Determinism: The view that denies the existence of free will and moral

Soft Determinism (Compatibilism): The view that maintains that while

determinism is true, actions with a certain kind of internal cause are free.

Libertarianism: The theory that holds determinism to be false and contends that humans
can make free choices.

Indeterminism: The philosophical belief that free will and determinism are
incompatible, and that there are events which do not correspond with
There are generally three types of indeterminists. One version holds that
some events are uncaused, another holds that there are
nondeterministically caused events, and the third holds that there are
agent-caused events (self-determinism).

1) Human beings are purely physical and therefore are subject to the laws of physics.
a) This applies to actions, i.e. our actions are determined by laws of nature.
2) The will is nothing more than a brain state which has the power to cause action.
a) The will is determined by those objects of consciousness which one finds advantageous
and the will is repelled by those objects of consciousness which one finds
b) So, human actions are caused by those sentiments that give rise to certain brain states, i.e.
that affect the will.
i) The agent has no control over those things that determine the will.
ii) The strongest sentiment is that which actually determines the will in a particular
c) Deliberation is nothing more than a stalemate between two competing sentiments.
i) That is there are two sentiments fighting for control over the will.
ii) This happens only when the agent does not completely understand the value of the
two competing sentiments.
(1) This is due to a lack of experience with the results that each sentiment will bring.
iii) Choice, then, is nothing more than the strongest sentiment winning control over the
iv) To make a free choice would be to make a choice without motive, which is not the
agent’s own power.
v) Since humans are never the master of their will, they are never free agents.
(1) Action is always determined by sentiments and sentiments gain power through an
agent’s temperament.
3) Since an agent does not have an experience of the sentiments determining her will, she does
not feel determined by some foreign power. Instead, she feels as though she is the master of
her will for all of her actions appear to be freely chosen.
4) From this perspective, then, we are only conscious of the effects of the will and not the
determinants of the will.
a) Consciousness has no causal power. Consciousness is merely a means for passively
observing what we do.
i) Epiphenomenalism: Belief that consciousness is an incidental side-effect
("epiphenomenon") or by-product of physical or mechanical reality. On this view,
although mental events are in some sense real they have no causal efficacy in the
material realm.

John Hospers

1) Are we responsible for any of our actions?

a) How can agents be responsible for their actions if their actions are determined by their
character, which is shaped and molded by her heredity or environment?
2) Some preliminary examples.
a) Would we say that an agent is responsible for her actions if she were mentally ill or under
the influence of some powerful drug?
b) Why not excuse an agent for wrong actions that were a result of her character?
i) She had no part in shaping her character.
3) The virtuous person vs. the vicious person
a) We cannot legitimately praise the virtuous person and condemn the vicious person for in
both situations the agent’s actions are caused by their character.
4) Hospers does not consider himself to be a determinist.
a) Is he merely delusional? That is, is he in denial about his determinstic leanings?
b) All he is doing is describing the facts about human behavior. He’s not interested in
arguing for or against determinism since his description holds true for both
determinism and indeterminism.
c) He thinks that moral talk, i.e. talk about freedom, occurs at the upper level…the level of
d) When we look at the lower level…the spring of action…we must acknowledge the fact
that our actions are determined by our character and that we have no control over
the character we start out with.