I accessibility of food— people will eat, not


            I will be discussing W.T. Stace’s version
of compatibilism relating to free will and determinism. His argument states
that “once “free will” is defined properly, any apparent incompatibility with
determinism disappears” (Cahn, 204).  In
other words, Stace contends that the problem with arguing about the
compatibility between free will and determinism lies primarily with how we
define “free will.”  Is acting in our own
interest considered “free will” since the act is subject to our interests,
thoughts, and feelings?  For example, humans
must eat food to survive.  Is the
consumption of available foods attributable to the concept of free will or
determinism?  The outside factors which
prompt us into acting in certain ways becomes the point of emphasis for Stace
in regards to compatibilism between free will and determinism.

            Stace argues that one’s future
actions can be determined by an inspection of their past doings and feelings,
granted the availability such information. 
For example, because people will die if they refrain from eating, it can
be determined that—given the accessibility of food— people will eat, not out of
free will necessarily, but because the dire consequences of not eating compels
people to do so.  I will be arguing in
favor of this point of view because I am a person that believes that things
happen for a reason and can sometimes be predicted, while at the same time we
also have complete free will to deviate from actions which would be predicted
by the elements of determinism. The element of free will only exists because of
the concept of determinism. According to Merriam- Webster Dictionary, free will
is defined as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate;
the ability to act at one’s own discretion”. In other words, it is the ability
to do something without the limitation of determinism or “fate”.

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            Stace claims that the dispute
between free will and determinism is not a real dispute but a “merely verbal”
one.  This means, that a dispute is a
verbal one if the people are arguing about something and agree about the
details of the argument but disagree about the definitions of the words being
used to describe those details. An example of this could be an argument about
the color of an apple. Say the apple has both the colors of green and red on
it. One person insists that the apple is a red one and the other insists that
it is a green apple.  This example describes
how Stace explains a dispute as a verbal one, because even though the apple had
both colors in it, two people can define that one object in completely
different ways based on their definitions of terms. What Stace is saying is that
the relationship between free will and determinism is a verbal dispute, because
the only disagreement that takes place when discussing the compatibility of the
two, is what the meaning of “free will” is.

            Staces version of compatibilism,
asks the difference between acts that are freely done, and acts that are not.
He states, “Acts that are freely done are those whose immediate causes are
psychological states in the agent. Acts not freely done are those whose
immediate causes are states of affairs external to the agent” (Cahn, 206). A
situation where this can be seen is if someone was holding a knife to your
throat, and told you they would kill you unless you gave them all your money,
your phone and jewelry.  Let us say you
gave them everything to avoid harm.  Is
this free will? Some would argue that by you giving into the threat, your acts
were not of your own free will. On the contrary, using Stace’s definition
stated above, we can argue that you did act freely, due to your psychological
state of fear within yourself and because you were not physically kept from
acting.  You could have used your free
will and said no to the thief and spat in his face.  The outcome however, would likely not turn
out in your favor.  The idea of free will
is muddied by things like compulsion and coercion, where an individual is
prompted to act a certain way based on fears of consequences.  In this sense, and using the thief example,
an individual still has the power of free will (by choosing to give up belongings
to the thief), but based on the understanding of basic survival, the individual’s
path can be easily determined (act in best interest: avoid death).