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If hard determinism is true, then it was never really my choice to be the person I am at this exact moment. There’s also only one path from this point forward, so if I’m going to eventually be a good person or stop some of my bad habits, then won’t that happen regardless of anything I do or don’t do?

Why should we try to better ourselves in a deterministic world?

  • I think a better question would be why we want to better ourselves, it doesnt matter, everything that happens is determined even thinking about it – Fuel Oct 3 '18 at 4:26
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Contrary to the other answer and the assumptions in your question: Hard determinism does not, in any way, mean that trying to better yourself does not work. Rather, under hard determinism, whether you decide to "try" to better yourself is also determined. You had no "free will" to decide whether or not to post this question. And you're "destined" to be convinced by this philosophical argument (or not to be convinced).

That does not mean that trying to better yourself will fail, instead it was already destined to be that you would try. It was also destined whether it would be a successful attempt or not.

Similarly, hard determinism does not state that people cannot be convinced to better themselves (or be affected by law, by culture, etc). Instead it means that you, for example, are predetermined to try and convince someone to better themselves (Just like I'm writing this answer); and whether it will work or not is also already determined.


So... back to the question:

Why should we try to better ourselves in a deterministic world?

We should try (or don't try) for the same reasons as you would under a non-deterministic world. The premise of the question is flawed. The truth value of determinism does not change anything.

If you think that people should try to better themselves in a non-deterministic world for whatever reasons, then the same reasons would apply to the deterministic world. If you don't think people should try in a non-deterministic world for whatever reasons, then the same arguments would apply in a deterministic world.

  • Do you expect that the proportion of hard determinists is higher among protestants (especially calvinists) than among catholics or orthodoxes? (implying the predestination idea) – ttnphns Oct 2 '18 at 7:49
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    @ttnphns It's an interesting question; a question which could be addressed empirically. In my experience, many christians do have some belief in free will. I have often seen free will being invoked to the "problem of evil." However, I have to say that I don't know the answer to your question. – Eff Oct 2 '18 at 7:54
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We do seem to try to better ourselves.

However, contrary to what we think we are doing, if we assume that we live in a deterministic world then that trying must be an illusion.

We are now forced to make a choice:

  1. Either the assumption is true that we live in a deterministic world and our trying is an illusion, indeed, everything we do is an illusion.
  2. Or the assumption is false that we live in a deterministic world and our trying is not an illusion.

If we can make that choice, then the belief in a deterministic world has a defeater. That is, being confronted with that choice should make us strongly doubt that we are living in a deterministic world.

Let's now consider the question:

Why should we try to better ourselves in a deterministic world?

Given the above we can flip that question around and ask why should we believe we live in a deterministic world? We will never be sure we are correct, but there is enough doubt to reject determinism.

So instead of assuming determinism is true, assume that it is not true and consider what the implications would be given that new assumption.

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    I don't follow. Suppose the world is deterministic. Now, I try (as could be predicted) to do something. I put in effort, and am fated not to know whether it will succeed or not until later. Nor does determinism imply that everything is an illusion. We could be fated to see the world as it is. – David Thornley Oct 2 '18 at 16:01
  • @DavidThornley There's a chat room on this topic if you want to discuss it: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/76868/… – Frank Hubeny Oct 2 '18 at 20:31

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