Much has been debated on the issue of complete freedom of will or the view that our will is caused by other factors that we have not chosen in our lives. There are basically three positions that philosophers have adopted in regard to this issue and these include; libertarianism, determinism and compatibilism. Among the three positions, the one that Roderick Chisholm is said to defend is that of libertarianism and this he discusses in the majority of his articles one of which this wonderful essay entitled, "Human Freedom and the self". In this essay, it is clear that Chisholm bases his argument on a libertarian stance. This is flanking with the principle of compatibility. Just like other libertarians, this writer believes in free will and makes out that freedom cannot be mixed with compatibility.
Chisholm does not put aside the idea of the causes but rather touches two of the causation types in his discussion. The first causation type is the transeunt where on state of affairs or an event causes another event. The second causation is called the immanent in which an event or a state of affair is caused by an agent. An agent can be defined as a causer that has not been caused by something else in nature or simply an uncaused causer that is not influenced by any law of nature. Therefore, the immanent causation is usually based on the agent-event relationship.
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In his explanation of this type of causation, Chisholm gives a quote of Aristotle, "therefore, a staff makes a stone to move, and this is moved by a hand, this is consequently moved by a man" Clarke. This is an event that led to the moving of a stone with staff which had been caused momentarily by a moving hand. The movement of the hand was caused by a contraction of the muscle whose cause was a neurological activity in the human brain. In this case, immanent causation can fit in that the transeunt causation to this cause (immanent) which can be pinpointed as the brain event.
In Chisholm's libertarianism, the argument is that one of the events caught up in the act is actually caused. The cause is however not brought about by an event but rather by something else. This something else according to Chisholm can only be an agent which is presumed to be man.
Examining Chisholm's argument in support of libertarianism and his objections to hard determinism and comptabilism
In the essay that was mentioned earlier, 'Human freedom and the Self' Chisholm rebuffs determinism openly based on an allegation that it is not conditional that with the view that human beings are responsible beings. Chisholm argues that adhering to hard determinism will imply that any act can only be viewed as caused by a previous event or not caused which would imply that people are not morally responsible.
In the argument of compatibilism, Chisholm reacts to the question of whether determinism is compatible with the human responsibility. Arguing for the idea would imply that that the agent could have acted otherwise though he or she was caused to act the way he/she did. The standard opposition behind the position taken by Chisholm implies that determinism is indeed reliable with human responsibility.
The Basic Structure of Chisholm's Reasoning
According to Fischer, Chisholm applies a pair of prehistoric terms to illustrate the concept of agent causation. Specifically, according to Chisholm it is far much important to use primacy of the mental as opposed to linguistic intentionality. To this effect, Chisholm defended the direct attribution theory of reference, through the use of first person. Against this backdrop, Chisholm waxed polemical that people refer to things (other than them), by attributing property to them, directly. By extension, Chisholm maintains that people relatively or indirectly attribute properties to these things by directly attributing properties to ourselves. This, Chisholm shows or illustrates further through the use of deductive logic, as he exemplified below:
(1) Person N is in bed B with Lady X, so that there is a NBX complex
(2) Lady X is in bed B with person N, so that there is a XBN complex
In the above case, Chisholm explains that if the speaker would be N and the audience X, then it would be possible for the speaker to attribute to himself directly, property (1) and that the audience would indirectly attribute to itself the property in line (2). Therefore to refer to the audience, it would be legit to use the XBN connection.
This above is to the effect that to reefer to (1) is to relatively refer to (2); just like to make reference to NBX is to make implication of the XBN.
The above is Chisholm's model of reasoning and logic.
What Chisholm means when he says that a free agent has a prerogative "which some attribute only to God?
It is a fact that Chisholm sees the human person as a free agent that has prerogatives- qualities which are interestingly attributable to the Divine Being. While some find the claim or the postulation as preposterous, a clear and objective analysis and appraisal of the standpoint reveals great extent of lucidity on the same.
The veracity of the standpoint held by Chisholm is based on the fact that human beings have the power to make decisions which have far reaching impacts on the life of the individuals, as well as those that fall within his jurisdictions. One of the underpinnings of the free will and the exercising of prerogatives is premised on the fact that the human person unlike the rest of life forms, are rational beings, being able to carry out reconnaissance, and the nature and extent of consequences that may accost an action that he anticipates to execute.
To the effect of the above, it is possible for an individual to choose his bride from a group of nubile women and to start his family with her, or to cede away the right to marry and found a family, ultimately to dedicate his life to priesthood and celibacy. This shows the extent the extent an individual's decision may affect his life.
That such decisions and the exercising of prerogatives are able to have far reaching impacts greatly on far much many is seen to be true when the social standing of the decision maker is brought into consideration. States and nation states feel the veracity of this standpoint as held by Chisholm whenever there is a bill that has passed through the legislature, awaiting presidential assent.
Therefore, that human beings are free agents, having certain prerogatives is a matter that is beyond repudiation or controversy. As a matter of fact, what remains man's business to repudiate is the extent that man as a free agent may exercise these prerogatives, for it is at this juncture that the law comes in, and man is separated from what God is.
Personal Take on the Point taken by Chisholm
By far and wide, Chisholm's standpoint that man is a free agent and as such, having prerogatives is a standpoint that can be cogently and logically defended and mentally grasped. This is seen to be held as true, given that man in one of his most basic rights, has the power to make decisions, personally.
A clear and nonpartisan reflection of the matter is clearly validated by philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine who maintained that the essence of life is the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of this happiness on the other hand is the pursuit of the fulfillment of destiny. Thus, through free will, man is able to decide what he wants to be in life or what he wants to pursue as his true calling in life. In the same wavelength, through the exercising of these prerogatives, some are able to cede away other noble tasks so as to specialize in the pursuit of the goal of life. Thus, by the same virtue, others like Chisholm have become philosophers, others politicians and statesmen, others renown theologians, others the greatest athletes and others, entrepreneurs, among others.
Nevertheless, the point that I find it hard to agree with Chisholm is his stubbornness in insisting that determinism and libertarianism are totally incompatible. Although one may have to understand that Chisholm argues from the point of a libertarian, yet, a careful analysis on life shows that an individual's life is beyond the summation of his choices. There are events and circumstances which shape human life and define the quality of life. To refute this observation is to create a utopia whereby human life would be only uncharacteristically successful. Tragedy for instance shapes the course of human life and history.