The fact is that it is only with determinism being true that we have any hope. People mistakingly believe that if free-will is false then there isn’t a point to doing things. That is for those that wish to change like say an alcoholic who wishes to recover or an angry person who wishes to become calmer. They mistakenly believe that free-will means the ability to change – or at least that determinism and the ability to change are mutually exclusive.
If free will were true then it doesn’t matter what you do now because it doesn’t determine what you will do in the future. There is no point in denying yourself the object of your unwanted addiction now because whether or not you deny yourself now will have no bearing on whether or not you will be able to deny yourself in the future. But the fact is if you deny yourself a cigarette all day today, and all day tomorrow and continue for about 7 days you’ll find it incredibly easier to deny yourself cigarettes in the future. And if you don’t hang around where there is the temptation to smoke. How can this be true if determinism is not?
I have heard people argue against determinism saying things like “Oh but then you give them an excuse to continue. If determinism is true then alcoholics can justify their drinking by saying “oh it’s not my fault; it’s determined””. What they fail to understand is that the alcoholic – firstly – doesn’t have to justify what he is doing. If he wants to drink excessively and doesn’t want to stop then he isn’t going to stop. If you go and berate him about it then he may give justifications to get you off his back but the reason he’s doing what he’s doing is because he wants to.
See it’s the wanting that is important. It’s the wanting that we have no control over. But once a person wants to change then he can change. There are certain things he can do now that – because determinism is true – will effect his behavior in the direction he wants later. But that change of heart – that event when one desire becomes stronger than another desire and thus starts change – is a gift. It comes without being sought (if you seek it then you’ve already got it!).
These people who hammer on about free-will don’t really care about the individual in need. They care about being able to point the finger, to cast the blame, to make themselves feel better than others.
But if free-will were true then we’d live in a truly hopeless world because no matter what actions I take today to better myself they aren’t going to have any effect upon my future behavior. If they did then you can say “My actions today determine my actions in the future”.