Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
What is quite ironic about the Media Platform is that we were means to use it as a way to find freedom of the pressures of the world but really it only feels this way because we are not directly speaking to anyone. Instead, thousands of miles away a hundred men in suits are using our preferences and searches to categorize us and find out how they can sway my decision-making for more profit. This is the world Harris is painting and from his perspective it is a very bleak one. It points out how susceptible we have become to Media Companies and their ability to target and sway our opinions. According to Harris a majority of Lives are being taken over by the Media. Depending on who you ask though the idea of mega corporations taking control of the populous is a very old idea. Thankfully history exists and we can reflect upon the Idea of Free Will and by examining previous Philosophers. In this case it would be Alfred Jules Ayer and his idea of Casual Determinism and Free Will, Roderick M. Chisholm who says Free Will and Determinism are incompatible, and Harry Frankfurt who focuses on the idea of Desire and its roll in Free Will. By looking upon their ideas reflecting free will we can decide for ourselves which one we support.
The esteemed Alfred Jules Ayer was a strong advocate for the viewpoint that Free Will and Moral Responsibility can coexist in a world of Casual Determinism. While the idea of the Internet was only in the early stages it was conceived before Ayers Death. Ayer was strongly faithful to idea that, “man is not thought to be morally responsible for an action that it was not in his power to avoid.” (Page 475) While our reality leaves us able to make our own decisions we still are determined based on our previous actions. We have allowed ourselves to become predictable and thus every event is causally determined. So, it’s quite possible to foresee everything that will happen in the future just by evaluating the past. While this isn’t the most uplifting theory it is the most likely at the moment. We have enabled corporations access to our day-to day lives. But saying that they can predict our actions isn’t the same thing as being, “helpless prisoners of fate” (Page 480). We have the ability to act irrationally whenever we chose to but as we continue to evolve in our society these tendencies will become fewer and fewer. As rational actions become increasingly enforced and accepted. Ayer would support the idea of Media being used to narrow down our possible decisions because when everyone agrees on an idea it becomes increasingly more likely for you to pick it. But Ayer doesn’t agree that Tech Companies Can Destroy your ability to enact free will. He accepts that we have a destiny and can be guided by our surroundings but that you will always be in the driver’s seat.
The American Philosopher Roderick M. Chisholm writes in his paper “Human Freedom and the Self” in support of the Libertarian view of Free Will. Unlike Alfred Ayer he is a passionate supporter that Free Will and Determinism are incompatible. So instead of our fate being simply determined by fate it is in actuality only what we made it so. One such example is that, “If a flood caused the poorly constructed dam to break… the break, had to occur and nothing could have happened in its place.” (Page 481) He supports a deterministic universe, where all events, proceed from earlier events without the possibility that they would proceed differently than how they do. Chisholm rejects that having free will simply mean that (a) He could have done otherwise, it is argued, means no more nor less than (b) if he had chosen to do otherwise, then he would have done otherwise. “(Page 482) So, if one really could choose otherwise, then, is the core of the free will debate. Having articulated the question in this way, Chisholm points out just how extraordinary the notion of free will is. For an agent’s actions to be chosen freely, they must not be caused by events, they must not occur by mere chance, and they must not be uncaused. Rather, an agent must cause them. That is, an action is the result of free will only if an agent acts because of a choice that is not itself caused by other events. In the case of Tech Companies their decisions are directly reflected of the Persons internet searches or likes for post. When someone decides they like reading Liberal News Outlets the Newsfeed will directly respond and feed you with more exciting Liberal news to keep you hooked. An agent didn’t cause this affect. It was a planned and a conscious decision. Therefore, Chisholm would be concluding that manipulation of these major corporations is in the way of Human Free Will as your decisions on the Internet will no longer be due to an agent unrelated to you. The human is being taken out of the loop and replaced with preordained options to choose from. The internet’s formulas for gaining attention go completely against Roderick M. Chisholm’s theory about Humanity’s Free Will.
Finally, we have Harry Frankfurt who expresses a radically different approach to free will focusing on what kind of freedom we actually care about when we try to compare free will and determinism to see if they are compatible. Harry G. Frankfurt believes that people are more complex as we have a system of wills and desires is the differentiating cause. His reasoning is principles that are called first and second order desires. Only a person can participate in second order desires. Though he makes a point that this is a suspiciously human characteristic. This second order is more complex than it seems and he goes into great detail with many examples that most of the time prove helpful to his theory. He had said multiple times that having the freedom to do what we want to do is not enough to show our free will. For Example, a prisoner may want his freedom but it won’t happen as he is denied it. It is possible for someone to want something even if they are denied it, differentiating free will from free action. To have true free will, you must be free to will what one wills. “Suppose that he is led in this way to want to have a desire for hedgier it is a genuine desire that he wants, then what he wants is not merely to feel sensations that addicts characteristically feel… he wants to have a desire.” (Page 490) We are different from animals because we have to ability to say no to decisions if we feel they won’t be helpful in the long run. You can make the conscious decision to not take drugs or do something dangerous. It is because of this that I do not believe Frankfurt would find that the phenomena
Harris describes to harmful to our Free Will. Initially we all have a choice to say yes or no. This decision can be taken away if we say yes to drugs and get addicted depriving you of your free will. Some might see the internet as the same and you are true. When your freedom of action is taken away it makes things more difficult. We are in control of our lives and with enough effort and will power you can overcome any addiction. Frankfurt doesn’t agree that Media hurts our Free Will as we will always retain it.
After Considering all of the previous information included by varying philosophers I have determined for myself that Media Companies are not a threat to our Free Will. I find myself siding with Frankfurt. Humans don’t just have desires but an ability to not desire things. If I find an opinion on a news website that I find interesting I would likely check further and research the topic to find if all of the Sites agree and if a Majority do then I will most likely tend to believe it. But all of these sites and the information they are nothing more than a highly advanced newspaper with information tailored for us. But what these corporations can’t do is account for Impulse thinking. If I find myself spending too much time on a site I will just leave. Free Will at this point is still in our Power and at the moment it can be ignored if you desire to do so. The Concept of a Person is that we a desire to desire things or a desire to not desire things. No matter how much something is pressured upon us it can be zoned out.