P366 Term Paper - Free Will vs. Determinism

P366 Term Paper - Free Will vs. Determinism - Sammy Shapiro...

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Sammy Shapiro Professor Dennis Senchuk Philosophy of Action P366 April 23, 2008 Choices and Uncertainty He is frustrated, yet placid, anxious, yet self-assured, powerful, and yet weak. Anton Chigurh’s face displays each one of these traits simultaneously as his right hand slams a quarter down onto the counter of a Texaco gas station. His frustration is due to the clerk’s baffled manner and simple-minded responses, yet his placidity comes from an acquired patience and the expectation that the man will be confused. His anxiety stems from the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the coin toss, yet his self-assurance comes from a trust that the coin will make the right decision. His power is derived from his masculine physique and commanding nature, yet his weakness is due to his concept of fate having overtaken him. He is inclined to kill this man; he will kill this man, but only should the coin permit him to do so. The decision is not up to Chigurh, the murderous antagonist from the 2008 Coen Brother’s film No Country For Old Men . “Call it,” Chigurh says to the attendant, “I cannot call it for you…this coin has been traveling 22 years to get here, and now it’s here, and it’s either heads or tails…” He wants to kill this man; it shows in his eyes. Yet, the choice has been left up to the coin, truly just a representation of fate. Fate will determine whether or not this innocent gas station owner will live or die at the hands of Anton Chigurh. While this is certainly not your traditional opening to a philosophy essay, I couldn’t help but take notice of the philosophical lessons that this ingenious film had to
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teach, especially with regards to the topic of free will vs. determinism, the focal point of this essay. With reference to this movie, I will attempt to answer (or at least provide my best possible analysis of) the questions “Is free will compatible with determinism?” and “Is free will inconceivable without determinism?” Chigurh is not a stupid man, the film makes that quite clear, but his views of morality are just a little skewed. It is, perhaps, safe to say that Chigurh does not believe in such things as ethics or morality, right and wrong, black and white. Instead, he has chosen the life of a determinist, or more specifically, a fatalist. In his book Puzzles for the Will , Jordan Howard Sobel gives us a general definition of the first: Determinism says that every event is causally determined, but leaves room for there being kinds of events that are not causally predictable – it of course leaves room for there being kinds of events that are by definition causally unpredicted and in this sense unpredictable (79). Choices and decisions would be, by their very natures, events in which the makers did
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course PHIL-P 366 taught by Professor Dennissenchuk during the Spring '08 term at Indiana.

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P366 Term Paper - Free Will vs. Determinism - Sammy Shapiro...

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