Are we human beings really in control of what we are doing? Or is our environment playing games on us, forcing us to do what we “think” is our idea but actually isn’t? Many psychologists and philosophers have been debating this question for years. There are two opposite sides: Those who believe that we have “free will” to do things, and those who think that we are completely controlled by the environment surrounding us, are those who believe in determinism. Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous psychologists ever existed, believes in indeterminism. Freud’s famous theory of psychosexual stages development says that from the way a child is raised up, we can determine who and what he will become later in his life.
He believes that we, human beings pass through 4 stages in our childhoods, they are the oral stage; the anal stage; the phallic stage, and the latency stage. After these 4 stages, at the onset of puberty, we finally enter the 5th stage and stay in that stage for the rest of our lives, the genital stage. After we become adults, we are affected by how well we had accomplished those previous stages. Freud believes that our personality after we become adults corresponds with some effects we should have when we don’t pass the stages well enough. John Broadus Watson also believes in determinism, he once said, “give me a dozen healthy infant, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and yes, even beggar-man and thief, Regardless to his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”
He strongly believes that people behave the way they do because of the environment surrounding them. We are brought up by people or things that are always affecting us. B.F. Skinner, the spiritual heir to Watson’s work, has commented, “A shortage of facts is always a problem in a new science, but in Watson’s aggressive program in a field as vast as human behaviour it was especially damaging.” He tried to prove that we are affected by our environment by conditioning a pigeon to do things in order to get a reward. Most behaviourists believe in indeterminism. They all think that people behave the way they do to be rewarded afterwards. They keep changing to get as much reward as they can to satisfy their needs.
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Most people think that they are free to choose what to do, they can change what they don’t like, do what they want. But at the same time, parents are always trying to do their best in front of their children, to “show a good example”. Otherwise, the child will copy the bad behaviour. A famous proverb says “like father, like son”. In addition to that, when a child misbehaves, his parents are usually the people blamed. If he is too naughty, it is because his parents didn’t raise him up in the correct way. Seeing it this way, it seems unfair for the parents if we had free will to do things. So it must be true that we are affected by our environment to a certain degree.
In contrast to that, there are the people who believe that we have free will to do things. Biologists, for example, think that the genes in bodies are really what matters in people; the genes will not only determine someone’s personality, what he will do under any circumstance, but also WHO this person is. Everyone has different genes passed on from our ancestors, and that will either keep on passing down to offspring or die. It has been proved that some people are more intelligent than others, they can understand things more easily, that means they will certainly behave in a different way to those people who that not as intelligent.
In real-life society, adults are asked to take their own responsibilities for what they do. If they break a law, it is considered that they did it on purpose; out of the free will. That is the only way we can be peaceful with each other. Mao Ze Dong was an ancient president of China; he was a great leader, one of the most influential persons ever existed. If we are all affected by our environment, what sort of environment would Mao Ze Dong have to make him so successful? Mao Ze Dong was born in a very traditional Chinese family. His father was wealthy enough to send him to school, but he thought that it was useless to study at school for too long. After 2 years, he withdrew Mao Ze Dong from school to help him with his business. Mao Ze Dong, however, still wanted to study; he used his spare time to read books. His father thought that he was just being lazy; they would quarrel, day after day, for a few years.
One day, his father got so angry that he beat Mao Ze Dong, but Mao Ze Dong never gave up. In the end, his father let him go on his own path. The experience Mao Ze Dong had is not special at all, it was really common in China at that time to have this kind of life, and Chinese people would usually listen to their parents. Why did Mao Ze Dong revolt against his parents, and later to the country China? What could have stimulated in such a normal life? The only reason for that to happen would be that he has great ambitions flowing in his blood. Since he was born, he was destined to be different. It is impossible that we behave totally out of determinism, and it would also be wrong to say that we are not at all affected by our environment. I think both are important to us are the reason why we do things. As it varies on different people, I don’t think people will ever find out the exact answer.