**This is from guest blogger, Patrick S.**
Ayer says that when one is constrained, they do not act freely. When one is in such a situation that he can only make one choice, Ayer believes that this person is caused to do the one possible option because of their constraints. While being constrained implies being caused to do something, Ayer notes that the converse does not always hold true. When one is caused to do something, he is often caused to do it by judging the expected outcome to be better than an alternative. Take the following example:
‘A’ is held at gunpoint and asked to disclose governmental secrets.
‘A’ discloses these secrets, and is NOT shot.
While we might say that ‘A’ was caused to disclose the secrets, via threat, it would be wrong, according to Ayer, to say that ‘A’ was constrained to the point that NOT disclosing the secrets wasn’t an option. It is this type of situation, where one has a choice and is not constrained, where freedom is present in Ayer’s system.
While Ayer holds the opinion that this sort of freedom is not at odds with determinism, I disagree. Determinism is the idea that causal interactions are logically such that any event in the universe is predetermined by previous events. Those previous events, along with the static laws of nature, are such that only one outcome is possible.
Let’s return to the previous example. If determinism holds true, then previous events have combined with the laws of nature to lead ‘A’ to having a gun at their head with the present threat that either ‘A’ divulge government secrets or be shot. Additionally, the laws of nature are such that ‘A’ will make the decision to divulge said secrets. This decision comes not from free will, but from chemical reactions in the brain that are triggered by the current set of events, with these reactions manifesting themselves in the form of a conscious decision.
It seems to me that freedom is absolutely at odds with determinism, and that Ayer’s attempt to make the two compatible is a trick of semantics. Perhaps events act alongside laws of nature to deterministically affect the outcomes of future events. However, perhaps it is also the case that SOMETIMES events are NOT determined by past events and the laws of nature. Under this situation, it could be the case that some events are pre-determined while others are not. If a personal decision were to fall under the latter category, it would be the case that free will applies, and determinism exists within the universe. Nevertheless, determinism has not applied directly to the situation at hand. Unfortunately, I currently see no reason to believe why some events would be subject to determined outcomes while others are not, but I am certainly open to suggestions and commentary on the idea.