Psychological Determinism and Free Will

Can we choose our way?

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My own view is that the determinist model is more scientifically useful than the free‑will one in the search for a better understanding of why we behave as we do. However, our use of the language of freedom remains valuable and even necessary. It enhances our self‑esteem, encourages us to develop self‑control, and reminds us how limited are our understanding of behavior and our ability to predict and control it.

These useful functions of the free‑will model should not, however, deter us from research to discover biological or social determinants of our behavior that are not subject to our direct, personal control. We must also be willing to face the logical implications of the determinist model. We have to reconsider our attitudes about guilt and responsi­bility, and the ways in which we ascribe moral or legal blame and administer punishment.

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Dr. Solomon Schimmel

Dr. Solomon Schimmel is a psychotherapist and Professor of Jewish Education and Psychology at Hebrew College.