Ayer's Definition of Freedom and Possible Objections Term Paper

Ayer's Definition of Freedom and Possible Objections
A critical look at A.J. Ayer's attempt to resolve the conflict between free will and determinism.
# 6374 | 1,715 words | 0 sources | MLA | 2001 | US
Published on Feb 08, 2003 in Philosophy (Metaphysics)

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An analysis of Ayer's attempt to reconcile freedom and determinism in his essay "Freedom and Necessity." The paper thoroughly explains Ayer's argument, which is based on his defining what it means for an action to be "free," and offers some basic objections to his position.

From the Paper:

"In his essay "Freedom and Necessity," A.J. Ayer attempts to resolve the apparent conflict between determinism and freedom by redefining the notion of freedom based on a distinction he creates between "causes" and "constraints." In contrast to traditional views that contrast freedom with causation - such that an agent who is caused to do something is not held to be acting freely - Ayer redefines freedom in terms of constraint, such that anyone who is acting in the absence of constraint is considered to be acting freely. In illustrating the distinction between cause and constraint, Ayer uses an example that contrasts the case of a kleptomaniac, whom he claims is constrained to steal, with the case of a normal man who steals, whom Ayer claims is unconstrained and thus is acting freely. For this distinction to work under the assumption of a deterministic world, Ayer offers a definition of causality that defines both constrained and unconstrained actions as being equally causally determined but still allows for this constraint-based distinction to exist. Thus, by contrasting the case of the constrained kleptomaniac with that of the unconstrained normal thief - with both equally causally determined in their actions by Ayer's definitions - Ayer offers a justification for considering the normal thief free in his actions and thus for holding him morally responsible. After more thoroughly explaining Ayer's argument and the definitions he utilizes in it, I will argue that Ayer's definition of causality opens his argument to its most potent objections. I will show that one can claim that his definition of causality is not congruent with the assumption of a deterministic world. Further, it can be objected that because of this, his notion of causality is not sufficiently contrasted with his definition of constraint to provide a satisfactory basis for defining freedom as acting in the absence of constraint."

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