Determinism, Compatibilism and Libertarianism.

Jun 11, 2019 | 0 comments

Jun 11, 2019 | Miscellaneous | 0 comments

Determinism, Compatibilism and Libertarianism

Determinismcompatibilism, and libertarianism all hold differing positions on freedom. Determinism asserts that man may have circumstantial freedom, but he does not have metaphysical freedom.

2. Determinism


The concept of determinism suggests that every event that happens in life has a reason to and that no man can prevent it. It points out that no one has a choice to control what happens. It might be caused by past events that affect the present and the future and there is no other option but to let it happen (PGS, 2018). Determinists believe that nothing can be done about the future, every event that will happen then will have already been predetermined by the past events. According to determinists, free will is false while determinism is true (Kane, 2002).

Determinists also relate the determination concept with the facts about the state of the universe and the laws of nature. In the deterministic view, great knowledge about the state of the universe and the laws of nature at a given time can make it possible to predict the universe state in the future. Since determinists believe that every event has a cause and that human actions are events then every occurrence in human life has been predetermined (Hackling, 1990).

Determinism is contrary to libertarianism which believes that one has the final judgment whether to act or not. As opposed to determinists, libertarians believe that free will is true and that not every event is predetermined to happen (Kane, 2002). Several arguments exist for the determinism concept. The best argument is when two university students who were charged with murder, through the employment of determinism were found innocent because what they did was bound to happen. Mr. Darrow stated that it was not their free will to commit the crime but was just used as instruments for the action (PGS, 2018). There is also an argument that the world seems to operate on deterministic ideas through modern science. In one way or the other people believe that everything happens for a reason and that there must be a cause for every event in life. But at the same time, they believe that something can be done by thinking to change the direction of the events which works against the theory (Hackling, 1990).


Determinism can be compared to the laws of nature which are based on what has been observed and experienced. These laws are linked to the future according to what has already been predicted. Determinism can also be linked to mathematics where it is solved based on what has been previously done. The theory is also believed to follow the laws of physics (PGS, 2018).


This theory can make one accept every result or action that comes their way without considering many other available options. Another weakness is that if someone relies on the fact that nothing can be done to prevent any event to occur, they will not make any effort to try and do anything or he will do anything he wants to bear in mind that it is not his fault and nothing will change what was to happen (PGS, 2018).

2. Compatibilism

Compatibilism is another term for soft determinism. It is a theory that agrees with the determinism concept but also accepts the notion of free will (Lacewing, n.d). Compatibilists believe that events occur because they have been caused and also events can occur due to someone’s choice for such an incident to happen (Ross, 2007). People are at liberty to choose their actions out of their own free will but the same actions if traced back, are necessary because there is a reason behind some decisions. In this life, people have nature and they base their actions on that nature, for example, ambition. Some people use motives such as ambition behind their actions so as not to be seen as though they are acting predictably.

Compatibilism brings out the real motives behind people acting as they please but there is always a source for their actions. It points out that being free to act does not mean that people should do things without reasoning and that for every reason for an act there is a source behind it (Ross, 2007). In simple terms what compatibility stands for is that someone’s actions are caused by what they choose and those choices are in turn caused by other events, it does not contradict the theory of determinism (Lacewing, n.d).

Different interesting arguments are defending this theory. Dennett, a compatibilist compares instances of being a human and being a wasp and comes up with a conclusion that humans have the privilege of freedom that other simple creatures do not. He explains that some issues or events can occur in life that we have no control over but we can flexibly respond to it and change in our lives according to how other people have dealt with it (Ross, 2007). He gave an example of a heart disease whereby those disposed to it, it is not unavoidable that they will go on to develop it. People have a clear understanding of the causes of heart diseases hence coming up with ways to avoid it until it becomes evitable.


One of its strengths is that it recognizes the role that people play in the causes of their actions. It does not entirely rely on the previous occurrences as compared to determinism theory. In this theory, individuals are to be blamed or praised for what they do. It also agrees with the Christian perception that people should be responsible for what they choose to do (Megan, 2014).


According to hard determinists, the theory does not realize the limitations of freedom. The theory is also being criticized by libertarians for not realizing the extent of the freedom that we have. From compatibility, it is hard to tell what the determining factor of our choices is and what not (Megan, 2014).

3. Libertarianism

Libertarianism is a theory that talks about the notion of free will to do something. It points out that individuals are entirely responsible for their actions from the choices they make. Individuals have the right to choose from many available alternatives and this freedom should be acknowledged and respected (Boaz, 1999). It is from these choices that people make decisions that result in daily life events. This theory puts more emphasis on the dignity of individuals towards other people and what they believe in.

According to Boaz (1999) for people to survive and develop their lives order is necessary for society. People assume that order should be brought by the government or the highest authority in the area but on the contrary, the order should be brought by individuals. It is the actions of people in the society that brings order. The liberty to choose and making decisions can lead to a complex society but people can bring about connections that result in an organized society. Libertarianism should not be confused with libertinism so that people can be free to choose to do anything without caring. Libertarianism encourages freedom to choose their way of life but within the law. The law is supposed to protect the freedom of people so that they can live a happy life according to their own ways (Boaz, 1999).

One of the arguments about this theory was made by Richard Taylor and is termed Taylor’s DATA. According to his data of finding out if determinism is true or not concludes that the determinism theory is false (Pecorino, 2000). He criticizes soft compatibilism by saying that the internal state of a person cannot be changed by simply “pushing a button”. He points out that an action cannot be free if there is an obstacle to the choices made. He concludes his argument by stating that a person is solely responsible for his/her conduct since one makes up his own mind and never the mind of another person (Pecorino, 2000).


Libertarianism gives room for moral responsibility which makes it easier to make ethical choices. Individuals are given the freedom to make their own choices from the available alternatives for their own good. Furthermore, the choices made in libertarianism are not predetermined or caused by previous events. The most interesting concept about this theory is that the people in power or the authorities cannot make choices for people. The best thing about this theory is that it makes people responsible for their actions so they take time to make the correct choices (Boaz, 1999).


This theory does not consider the internal or external factors that can contribute to how the choices are made. It also fails to give a clear explanation of how every person can be solely responsible for the choices they make (Boaz, 1999).

My point of view

I believe that compatibilism theory is correct because it is more convincing and has a clear explanation of how choices can be made. It has a stronger argument as compared to other theories. People must indeed have a reason for every event in their lives but it is also true that the choices made leading to those events were done out of free will. Hobbes compared compatibility theory to an unimpeded river. He stated that “a river that flows down the hill necessarily follows a channel, but it is also at liberty to flow within the channel” Ross, 2007). People have the freedom to act but there are always motives behind their actions. It is possible to use common sense to change an act or decision out of free will but based on previous actions that brought about a different outcome. Let me give a good example; if my neighbor develops diabetes because of poor eating habits and lack of physical exercise in her daily activities, most definitely I have a choice to change my behavior based on the previous experience of what happened to a person I know. It is very true to say that as much as humans should have the freedom to make choices on their actions, some events happen in life that is predetermined and humans have no control over.


Boaz, D. (1999). Key Concepts of Libertarianism. Retrieved from

Hackling, I. (1990). The Taming of Chance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kane, R. (2002). The Oxford Handbook of Freewill. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lacewing, M. Compatibilism. Retrieved from

Megan. (2014). Soft Determinism. Retrieved from

Pecorino, P. (2000). Introduction to Philosophy (1st ed.). Queens Borough Community College.

PsycholoGenieStaff. (2018). The Concept of Hard Determinism Explained With 2 Great Examples. Retrieved from

Ross, C. (2007). Compatibilism | Issue 62 | Philosophy Now. Retrieved from