The Concept of Free will, its Treatment in Psychology and its Importance for the Teaching of Responsibility: The Responsibility of Social Sciences

By Niki Thoma.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As Psychology develops, its growing body of findings and theories has focused on the prediction and control of behaviour, prediction and control being often associated in scientific writing with determinism, the opposite of free will (see Skinner 1971). Psychologists have tried to clarify the concepts of free will and determinism by relating them to automated behaviour, with a psychological, rather than a biological, perspective and to teleological nature of human behaviour. Some have realized the the concept of free will cannot be treated experimentally, but only conceptually (Sappington 1990, Thoma 2008). The position presented here is one of clarification of the concept, in order to show that determinism has been proposed and supported on a metaphysical basis, not on the level of everyday lives of people. After this is cleared, one can reach for the teaching of free will, responsibility and related values. The importance of the belief of these concepts is that it is imperative to teach these values, if the students graduating schools will develop into people who will make up cohesive societies. Examples of teaching determinism: “students are not responsible for their development, teachers are”. “The unemployed have no responsibility for their situation, the state has”. One may observe that these beliefs are conducive to irresponsible behaviour, and research supports that they could be. The no responsibility model is not only unsupportable in the everyday sense: it damages young people’s social and psychological health.

Keywords: Free Will, Determinism, Responsibility

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 630.371KB).

Dr. Niki Thoma

Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, European University, Nicosia, Cyprus

B.A. Wales (UK), M.Sc. London (UK), Ph.D. Athens, Ex school psychologist.

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