Free Will and Determinism 

Free Will and Determinism 

Article Summary

Determinism refers to the perception that individual behavior is caused by external and internal forces while free will refers to the ability of individuals to choose whether to act or not. In other words, the behavior of people under freewill is self-determined. For instance, freewill perceives that a person has the ability as well as thepower to decide whether or not to commit a crime(McLeod, 2013). The causal law of determinism assumes that all events that occur in the world are as a result of preceding events. Free will assumes that people would behave differently under same circumstances. While determinists believe that all behavior is caused by both internal and external forces affecting a person,free will argues that these forces do exist,but individuals have the free will to choose their behavior. In such cases, people can make their own choices regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. In the article, McLeod argued that freewill is possible as well as necessary for people to become well-functional individuals (McLeod, 2013). However, it becomes hard to live free of such forces,and therefore, people are forced to act based on the circumstances.

McLeod states that there are different approaches to determinism and free will by different theorists. There have been various arguments amongpsychologists, some of whichsupport the issue while others argue against it. Thus, determinism is untrue, and people have the free will. Individuals who believe in free will usually know that there exist external and internal forces,but people are also free to choose their behavior. For instance, freewill implies that a person should be chargedforcommitting a certain crime unless they are mentally challenged. In this sense, people are truly free from causal influences of past or present events that surround them and can defy the circumstances so as to make independent decisions.

Freewill in Real-World Situations

The humanistic approach is based on people’s free will to make choices. It argues that the notion that individuals are controlled by the internal and external forces is not true. Whether the world is deterministic or not, people tend to think that the free will exists in real life (Thorp, 2017). Even if the issue of free will was proven to be false, there is a good reason to believe in it. This is because free will makes people moral, less conformist, and pro-social. Environmental factors are powerless to prevent a person from committing a crime. Therefore, as long as individuals can make rational, informed decisions, they are not subjected to anundue force (Thorp, 2017). If people have free will, it means that alternative decisions are always open to them such that natural laws that govern their brain activity give them the probability of deciding one way and the probability of deciding another way.

The belief in thefree will has a tremendous effect on people’s lives. Free will touches many areas, such as law, relationships, politics, morality, religion, and others. Everyday, people exercise free will through the different choices they make. This gives validity to the concept of free will in the real world. Under the free will, there is the distinction between mere accidents and voluntary actions (Thorp, 2017). Individual choice matters in the real world because it leads to certain outcomes in the world. For instance, if they had not decided to follow the rules, they would have been punished. Therefore, people do things because they consciously decide to do them. As such, their minds are free from the cause and effects of their actions. Without the free will, people would cease to do good deeds.

Additionally, external forces are inaccurate. Thus, people are free to choose how to behave. It is impossible to assume the behavior is determined since individuals are conscious of what they decide to do. Free will argues that individuals can consciously reflect on their behavior. Thisis seen as the best way of achieving goals and learning from mistakes (Thorp, 2017). There are key elements that help individuals make right choices in particular situations, such ascalculation, organization, and strategy. Therefore, many people believe that human beings can control their destinies through the choices they make. Good choices have positive outcomes while bad choices have negative outcomes. Therefore, people can control their lives.

There are multifarious strengths and weaknesses of free will. Some of the strengths include the following: it promotes responsibility and morality’ it is the best way to choose between good and evil; it explains the presence of evil;the free will is better than having behavior being determined; and people candevelop a feeling of control over their lives. Free will leads to ethical accountability (Thorp, 2017). If things beyond their control determine people’s behavior, they do not have accountability for their actions. Also, believers in God usually believe infree will for human beings who are given total blame for their sins.

Studies argue against the idea of free will due to its weaknesses. Research shows the idea of free will is determined by brain activity (Thorp, 2017). The activity of doing something occurs first in the brain before a person is aware of making conscious decisions. Additionally, the idea of free will is criticized in the sense that mental disorders tend to undermine it. Research shows that people with mental disorders lose control of their thoughts and actions. Also, people with depression lose control of their emotions. Another criticism of free will is based on causality; it does not show what triggers an action.

Determinism in Real-World Processes

According to Carey & Paulhus (2013), behavior is determined by internal and external forces affecting human beings. For instance, parents reward their children for good behavior, thus encouraging them to exercise the same behavior. In recent times, behavior or events areoccurring in reality are caused by some previous factors. As such, everything is pre-determined,and nothing new can come into existence. Research suggests that it is difficult to agree with or disapprove of such arguments(Carey & Paulhus, 2013). For example, can people’s behavior be different in certain situations if they chose to act this way? Those who believe in free will would agree while those who believe in determinism would disagree with the argument. Free will and determinism are incompatible.

In psychology, theories such as behavioraland biological theorysupport the concept of determinism more than that of free will. Behaviorists argue that the universe is ruled by laws and systematic principles. They believe that individual’s actions are initiated by a certain previous cause(Carey & Paulhus, 2013). According to Skinner, people have no choice of their behavior,but they are tricked to believe in their ability to choose. Therefore, people who commit crimes have no real choice,but they are propelled in this direction by circumstances and their past historical events, which makes breaking the law inevitable(Carey & Paulhus, 2013). People repeat behaviors that are rewarded,and they reject behaviors that are punished. The biological theory argues that behavior is determined by genes.

Determinism is applicable in the real-world situations,and it has various implications(Carey & Paulhus, 2013). Since determinism argues that everything is predictable, this does not really mean that tragedies may not happen in the real world.People may not wish or expect things to be different, or they may not expect to be surprised by events. Additionally, people’s inability to determine events does not necessarily mean that the events are not determined;rather, they did not see them coming (Carey & Paulhus, 2013). There would be no reason for blaming them for committing a crime. Punishment of wrongdoers and perpetrators is important in ensuring that the victims get justice. Harsh penalties help the perpetrator to learn a lesson and never to repeat such actions in the future.

According to the determinist worldview, individual success and achievement are reduced to good luck (Carey & Paulhus, 2013). Success appears to be as a result of fate in the real world. Everything occurs as it did simply because people are not in control of outcomes, thoughts, or even feelings. People usually tend to forget that they worked hard to achieve success. Therefore, their efforts are meaningless. In this case, their behavior is constrained. People are rewarded for their good luck,not their potential and ability. However, thereward is a form of motivation for individuals to make additional efforts.

Research suggests that there are strengths and weaknesses of determinism(Carey & Paulhus, 2013). Some of these strengths include the following: it recognizes that some of theindividual’s actions are beyond their control; there are some causes of individual behavior; and human freedom is an illusion. Some of the weaknesses include the following; it rejectsmoral responsibility; people are not free to make choices or to act; they cannot be blamed for their own actions; they break down laws;and there is a lack of consideration in making choices. In most cases, people forget about environmental factors and think they are acting freely. Research shows that if individual behavior weredetermined by environmental factors, people would always change their behavior to conform to other people.


People believing in free will argue that determinism removes human freedom and devalues human behavior. A determinist believer underestimates the ability of human beings to choose their own destiny. Behavior is influenced by nature, which is a combination of what people learn from the environment and what they get from their genes. Sometimes, people are forced to make certain decisions,and they are forced to act according tothe circumstances they are in. Thus, everything might not happen exactly the way they wish. People are free to make their own choices that affect their lives,but their behavior can impact others despite the fact that behavior is insignificant. People are social beings,and the notion of cause and effect is important in explaining behavior. Therefore, the behavior is of pivotal role in both determinism and free will. The way people act is influenced by the freedom to make life choices, although decisions are predetermined by the external and internal factors.


Carey, J. M., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). Worldview implications of believing in free will and/or determinism: Politics, morality, and punitiveness. Journal of personality, 81(2), 130-141.

McLeod, Saul. (2013). Freewill and Determinism. Simply

Thorp, J. (2017). Free will: A defense against neurophysiological determinism (Vol. 4). Taylor & Francis.


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