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Free Will And Determinism Philosophy Essay Contest

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Free will and determinism philosophy essay contest

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Free will alludes to the right of individuals to be free and whether such freedom can actually be realized in a world so much perceived to have predetermined events.

What then is freedom and if freedom doesn’t exist what negates the concept of freedom and what implications would this denial of its existence mean to society. Freedom may simply mean the ability of an individual to act without interference and the basis of these actions being voluntary choice. The discussion of free will and determinism is complex and has seen vast divisions on the stand of distinguished philosophers over the historical discourse of philosophy

Free will therefore is a concept that gives rise to freedom as a guide to regulating the interaction of persons’ in society through the development of guiding principals and laws that seek to promote and protect personal freedom. In this regard constitutions that have moral, personal and legal force tend to be formulated in order to respect the freedom of individuals and any attempts to infringe on the same leads to conflicts in an attempt to redress this grave violation .Mill in his book “Liberty” hailed freedom as the greatest of all human virtues while Hume declared “how glorious it is to be free”.

Therefore freedom is important for personal happiness since happiness can only be achieved when individuals are not hindered in their pursuit of factors that give joy and pleasure as long as those actions are within the confines of equitable and ethical legal guidelines. Therefore freedom have an element of voluntary action and therefore these free actions leads to consequence broadly termed as responsibilities emanating from possession of freedom .This is because actions both good and bad leads to praise or blame and the resultant effect is either reward or punishment respectively.

Questions arise therefore whether one can be held responsible for actions deemed to be involuntary, since responsibility is basically deemed to originate from freedom. There are instances whereby legal responsibility and my emphasis is on “legal” since it is unclear whether there can be involuntary acts basing my argument on the basic understanding that an individual must make a choice to act in a particular manner disregarding whatever undue pressure forcing him to act in another way. These instances include insanity, drunkenness and intoxication, coercion, great provocation and certain cases of ignorance.

Determinism is the theories that our choices and decisions and what give rise to them are effects. Some have argued along the same line of thought and has termed our basis of all choice and decision as having resulted from the causal affect of nature. Maybe however, though things happen as they will it ought to be clear that such actions may be so simply because we choose to act in such a fashion and therefore the presupposition that such actions were predetermined may be fallacious. However, cause does not always imply different effect since the latter may require a series of unrelated condition for it to occur. For instance it would be expected that by striking a match, light would occur. This simplistic view of causal effect would not apply if for instance the match had been wet, and this implies though to a small extent that determinism lacks sufficient visible justifications to hold.

As I wind up it is important therefore to acknowledge in my humble view that though human beings may find themselves in circumstances that they feel are not of their choosing it is clear that we do have a choice on how to react to them.

Therefore to claim that human beings are not free is to precipitate a crisis of unprecedented level where such arguments though plausible as they may seem might be used to deny citizens their freedom. My believe therefore is that there is sufficient literature to support that human beings are essentially free and that determinism is simply a bi-product of individual and communal choices since a person cannot live in isolation and the choices made by others may influence greatly an individual’s life and limit but only to an extent his power to act in a certain way.

Bertsky, B. (1966).Free will and Determinism: Meaning of Determinism. New York:

Harper & Ray publishers.

Brooks, C. (1961).Determinism and Freedom in the age of modern science: Justification for Freedom. New York: New York University Press

Honderich, T. (1993).How free and you: Freedom as a Right. Suffolk: Clays Ltd.

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Truth of Determinism

In the arguments for the truth of determinism. the primary issue that always surfaced is its relation to free will. Determinism basically states that everything that happens is determined by antecedent conditions together with natural laws. Determinism is a theory postulating that every event. including human cognition. decision and action. is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. such that free will has no place in the said concept

The problem of free will has two basic philosophical questions. such as

(1 ) is determinism true and (2 ) does free will exist

The principle of free will has three implications (1 ) religious (2 ethical. and (3 ) scientific. In the religious sphere. free will mean that there is an Omnipotent being that does not assert its power over an individual 's will and choices. In ethics. it may mean that people can be held liable and morally accountable for their actions. In the scientific realm. it may imply that the actions of the body are not fully determined by physical causality

Out of this theory. the Incompatibilism philosophical thesis came up wherein it postulates that if determinism is true. then people have no free will. The incapacity to have independent choice (free will ) will result in not having a rational basis for morality. This will impact negatively on some aspects of criminal and civil jurisprudence and legislation will appear irrational and unjust. Since free will constitute consciousness and voluntary action on the part of the person the acceptance of determinism as truth will mean that the person - whether he /she did a good or bad job - will be considered as having acted involuntarily. thus. liberating him /her from previous jobs or tasks done

The defense attorneys may invoke the theory of hard determinism to plead for Phil Spector 's innocence by agreeing with the existence of determinism and disregarding the concept of free will

To maintain the integrity of social institutions. particularly those that deal with the justice system. people must be held liable for their actions and inactions. If the truth of determinism is uphold by the Court. Phil Spectors ' attorneys will definitely save the client and get an acquittal. By virtue of having acted involuntarily. the person can argue that he /she was not in his /her proper mind and that any crime committed by the said person were done without his being aware or conscious of doing the deed

This concept of determinism is being contested by the theory of Compatibilism wherein it is being argued that free will and determinism both exists and are in fact compatible. People who believes in this theory assumes that free will is not the ability to decide as a person independent of previous causes but rather. as a person who is not forced to make choices and implement it

A Compatibilist believes that an act done by a person is out of his free will unless he /she was compelled or forced by.

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Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism

Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism

Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism
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Genre: Philosophy, Psychology

Do you make your own choices or have circumstances beyond your control already decided your destiny? For thousands of years, this very question has intrigued and perplexed philosophers, scientists, and everyone who thinks deliberately about how they choose to live and act. The answer to this age-old riddle is universally relevant to our lives. The implications of our views on it can affect everything from small choices we make every day to our perspective on criminal justice and capital punishment. From the Stoics to Boethius, from Kant to Hume, from Sartre to contemporary philosophers, great minds have puzzled over this debate for centuries. Now you can learn the intriguing details of this fundamental philosophical question with Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism, 24 fascinating lectures by Shaun Nichols, award-winning Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the University of Arizona.

What Is Free Will?

Professor Nichols begins his course with a discussion of the concept of free will. You discover the three kinds of questions that philosophers ask in their exploration of free will:

Descriptive questions: What is free will? What is required for us to be morally responsible?
Substantive questions: Do we have free will? Are we morally responsible?
Prescriptive questions: How do we change our actions in response to our knowledge of free will?

By explaining the fundamental approaches to this familiar debate, Professor Nichols thoroughly prepares you for an in-depth study of the complexities of free will and determinism. You discover what great thinkers through the ages believe about the choices we make and understand how we might deal with their implications.

From Plato to the Present

Professor Nichols then takes you on an investigation into the origins of the question itself. As with so many central philosophical issues in Western thought, the idea of free will and determinism began with the Greeks. In fact, the Greek philosopher Leucippus made the earliest-known statement of the view of determinism, proclaiming, "Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity." Professor Nichols begins with a broad overview of the history of philosophical thought and exploration as it pertains to the question of free will and determinism.

Professor Nichols illustrates how the concept of fate was defined and treated by these groups:

Greeks: In Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex, fate decrees that Oedipus is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Although his parents leave him to die and Oedipus spends his life trying to escape his fate, in the end he does exactly as the Oracle predicted at his birth. The Greeks believed that, for the most important things in life, a particular fate awaits you.
Medieval theologians: St. Augustine, one of Christianity's most important thinkers, upheld that God knows absolutely everything, including every action we take, every decision we make. Nonetheless, Augustine maintained, our choices are still free—God doesn't force us into our decisions. The idea of salvation through God's grace alone was elaborated on more than 1,000 years later by the Protestant theologian John Calvin.
Calvinists: Calvin promoted the doctrine of predestination, which he defined as "the eternal decree of God, by which He determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation."
Contemporary philosophers: Saul Smilansky, for example, believes that we do not have free will but that we must keep it a secret from the masses. If all people knew their behavior was determined, they would stop behaving morally, he believes.

Are We Morally Responsible for Our Actions?

The question of free will has overwhelming implications for our sense of moral responsibility. If free will makes us accountable for our choices, does the opposite hold true, that determinism absolves us of responsibility?

German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that our moral responsibility stems entirely from our ability to do the right thing—to do our moral duty. Kant's theory implies that if we can make the choice to do the right thing, we must have free will.

If we do not have free will, and our behavior is determined according to what came before—our environment, our genetics, our parents' behavior—what does that mean for our society's ideas of crime and punishment? Should we be held responsible for actions that were inevitable? How do we treat individuals who commit crimes if we believe their backgrounds led them to the crimes?

The debate continues as we gain increasing access to scientific evidence of brain activity related to moral choices. Professor Nichols's discussion of the relationship between the actions and brain activity of criminals is particularly fascinating, which leads us into the examination of whether certain types of criminals, such as psychopaths, are morally responsible for their actions.

Modern Experiments in Philosophy

When we think of philosophy, what usually comes to mind are classical Greek philosophers, ancient mystics, or Enlightenment thinkers from Europe. Professor Nichols, himself a philosopher, introduces us to his peers at universities across the United States who are exploring free will in new ways.

Advances in science and technology enable us to discover actual empirical evidence about what happens in our brains when we make certain kinds of decisions, shedding light on the relationship between what we think of as free will and what's really happening to our physical being.

One view in social psychology says we are unaware of many of the internal causes of our own behavior. On this view, much of what happens in the mind when we make decisions is hidden from us. You will enjoy exploring several experiments that support this view and question our notion of free will.

In one study, participants were asked to solve word puzzles that included words such as Florida, wrinkled, and gray—words commonly associated with elderly people. When these participants went to leave the building, they walked toward the elevator more slowly than others whose puzzles included neutral words.
In another experiment, a group was asked to imagine characteristics of a professor while another group was asked to think about soccer hooligans. Afterward, both groups were asked Trivial Pursuit questions; those who had envisioned a professor did much better than those who'd been thinking about thugs.
Neuroscientist Benjamin Libet explored the relationship between brain activity and decision making. He measured subjects' brain activity using an EEG and their muscular activity using an EMG. He asked them to perform certain small actions, like flexing a finger, and asked them exactly when they decided to perform the action. He discovered that their brains registered activity before they said they had decided to perform the action.

While these experiments are open to interpretation, they seem to suggest we are rather susceptible to unconscious stimuli. Are the decisions we make truly free or subtly influenced by factors we don't even recognize?

Join a Centuries-Old Discussion

Professor Nichols's thorough research and in-depth looks at each side of every argument make Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism a provocative and balanced exploration of this centuries-old discussion. In 2005, he received the Stanton Award, given annually to an innovative scholar working in philosophy and psychology. Professor Nichols, whose research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, also heads a research group at the University of Arizona investigating the psychological factors that influence our thinking about philosophy.

Mining the rich history of philosophy for possible answers, Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism ultimately invites you to come to your own conclusions about whether or not we control our lives.

00. Professor Introduction
01. Free Will and Determinism—The Basic Debate
02. Fate and Karma
03. Divine Predestination and Foreknowledge
04. Causal Determinism
05. Ancient and Medieval Indeterminism
06. Agent Causation
07. Ancient and Classical Compatibilism
08. Contemporary Compatibilism
09. Hard Determinism
10. Free Will Impossibilism
11. The Belief in Free Will
12. Physics and Free Will
13. Neuroscience and Determinism
14. Neuroscience of Conscious Choice
15. Psychology and Free Will
16. Deontological Ethics and Free Will
17. Utilitarianism and Free Will
18. Responsibility and the Emotions
19. Pessimism and Illusionism
20. Optimism and Skepticism
21. The Ethics of Punishment
22. The Power of Punishment
23. Moral Responsibility and Psychopathy
24. The Future of Responsibility
25. End Credits

There - s No Such Thing as Free Will and Determinism - The Atlantic

6:35 PM / June 1, 2016

It’s no surprise that Stephen Cave’s story in our current issue, “There’s No Such Thing as Free Will ,” is one of the most read and hotly debated Atlantic pieces this month. The galaxy of philosophical issues called “free will and determinism” is where morals and physics come together. In other words, it’s a subject that genuinely matters, and one that’s a hell of a lot of fun to argue about.

The relationship between physical laws and moral laws is intuitive to most people. If the rules that govern the universe that exist outside of ourselves and before we’re born apply to our actions, how can we be responsible for those actions?

But it’s worth taking a closer look at this, as some readers are already doing. This one states the case that a purely deterministic universe rules out the possibility of free will:

Conscious or sub-conscious, if our choices are governed by chemical interactions in the brain, then they are not choices or free will at all—just the result of inherently predictable and deterministic interactions governed by laws of classical physics. The only potential for free will is quantum interactions in the brain, which may or may not exist (no proof yet either way).

According to this line, the jury is out on whether we have free will, because it depends on the forthcoming findings of physics as to whether there is randomness in the decision-making processes in our brains. At its core, the claim here is that in order to be responsible for doing something—in order to have done it freely—we need to have been able to do something else. We need multiple options, or alternative possibilities.

But the following reader looks critically at why in determinism would justify moral responsibility:

How does randomness lead to free will? Let’s say at every possible decision point in my day—coffee or no coffee, take the freeway or surface streets, place a comma or don’t place a comma—that instead of making a choice (or being causally forced into a choice), I instead have to stop and flip a coin. Heads I do one of the things, tails the other, and it’s perfectly random.

Is this anything like free will? If I landed heads and had coffee, tails and took surface streets, and tails and placed the comma, did I choose those things in any meaningful sense of the word?

Taken together, we can see the germ of an odd but appealing idea here: Perhaps neither determinism nor indeterminism leads to the kind of moral responsibility and free will we have such a strong intuitions towards. Maybe if we can be morally responsible, it’s for some other reason entirely.

I wrote my dissertation a few years ago arguing for this idea, which is called “semicompatibilism.” It’s gaining ground in philosophy circles due largely to its greatest champion, a California philosopher named John Martin Fischer. For now, it’s still a fringe view that hopes to overturn millennia of accepted wisdom about one of the oldest and most important issues in philosophy.

It gets technical fast, but the justification is simple: We have a strong intuition for moral responsibility. And if something does justify moral responsibility, it’s probably something that actually happened, not something that might have happened but didn’t. Moral responsibility is immune to the question of whether the universe is or is not determined.

Think about it for a moment: The notion that we are morally responsible for something because we could have done otherwise even though we didn’t is actually really weird, isn’t it? It’s the disingenuous logic of insurance salesmen. And to paraphrase Fischer, should our deepest senses of ourselves as moral agents really be hostage to the arcane discoveries by theoretical physicists of more and more accurate equations that describe the universe? The physics questions are a discussion of a different type, and it doesn’t seem like they should matter one way or the other.

As another reader puts it:

Why do so many people equate “free will” with “non-determinism”? Just because our choices are predictable, it does not mean that we do not make choices.

Well, why do they? If you have any thoughts on the matter, or Stephen Cave’s piece more generally, let us know: .

When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes

Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatments.

First, listen to the story with the happy ending: At 61, the executive was in excellent health. His blood pressure was a bit high, but everything else looked good, and he exercised regularly. Then he had a scare. He went for a brisk post-lunch walk on a cool winter day, and his chest began to hurt. Back inside his office, he sat down, and the pain disappeared as quickly as it had come.

That night, he thought more about it: middle-aged man, high blood pressure, stressful job, chest discomfort. The next day, he went to a local emergency department. Doctors determined that the man had not suffered a heart attack and that the electrical activity of his heart was completely normal. All signs suggested that the executive had stable angina—chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle is getting less blood-borne oxygen than it needs, often because an artery is partially blocked.

'What We Are Seeing With Trump Is Fundamentally Different'

Two historians weigh in on how to understand the new administration, press relations, and this moment in political time.

The election of Donald Trump, and the early days of his presidency, have driven many Americans to rummage through history in search of context and understanding. Trump himself has been compared to historical figures ranging from Ronald Reagan to Henry Ford. and from Andrew Jackson to Benito Mussolini. His steps have been condemned as unprecedented by his critics, and praised as historic by his supporters.

To place contemporary events in perspective, we turned to a pair of historians of the United States. Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author, most recently, of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society . Morton Keller is a professor emeritus of history at Brandeis University. He has written or edited more than 15 books, including Obama’s Time: A History . They’ll be exchanging views periodically on how to understand Trump, his presidency, and this moment in political time. —Yoni Appelbaum

Why Netflix Will Release Martin Scorsese’s Next Film

A $100 million gangster epic starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci has become too risky a proposition for major studios.

Martin Scorsese’s next project, The Irishman. is as close as you can get to a box-office guarantee for the famed director. It’s a gangster film based on a best-selling book about a mob hitman who claimed to have a part in the legendary disappearance of the union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Robert De Niro is attached to play the hitman, Al Pacino will star as Hoffa, and Scorsese favorites Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel are also on board. After Scorsese branched into more esoteric territory this year with Silence. a meditative exploration of faith and Catholicism, The Irishman sounds like a highly bankable project—the kind studios love. And yet, the film is going to Netflix. which will bankroll its $100 million budget and distribute it around the world on the company’s streaming service.

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe

Plagues, revolutions, massive wars, collapsed states—these are what reliably reduce economic disparities.

Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars.

The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this “Great Compression” (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse.

Seven Earth-Sized Planets Have Been Spotted Around a Nearby Star

And all of them are in the temperate zone.

In late 2015, in the Chilean desert, astronomers pointed a telescope at a faint, nearby star known as a red dwarf. Amid the star’s dim infrared glow, they spotted periodic dips, a telltale sign that something was passing in front of it, blocking its light every so often. Last summer, the astronomers concluded the mysterious dimming came from three Earth-sized planets—and that they were orbiting in the star’s temperate zone, where temperatures are not too hot, and not too cold, but just right for liquid water, and maybe even life.

This was an important find. Scientists for years had focused on stars like our sun in their search for potentially habitable planets outside our solar system. Red dwarfs, smaller and cooler than the sun, were thought to create inhospitable conditions. They’re also harder to see, detectable by infrared rather than visible light. But the astronomers aimed hundreds of hours worth of observations at this dwarf, known as TRAPPIST-1 anyway, using ground-based telescopes around the world and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

The Foreign-Policy Establishment Defends Itself From Trump

“The question confronting us as a nation is as consequential as any we have faced since the late 1940s,” a group of Republican and Democratic experts write.

Ben Rhodes, one of Barack Obama’s top advisers, once dismissed the American foreign-policy establishment—those ex-government officials and think-tank scholars and journalists in Washington, D.C. who advocate for a particular vision of assertive U.S. leadership in the world—as the “Blob.” Donald Trump had harsher words. As a presidential candidate, he vowed never to take advice on international affairs from “those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.” Both men pointed to one of the Beltway establishment’s more glaring errors: support for the war in Iraq.

Now the Blob is fighting back. The “establishment” has been unfairly “kicked around,” said Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former official in the Reagan administration. As World War II gave way to the Cold War, President Harry Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, “invented a foreign policy and sold it successfully to the American people. That’s what containment was and that’s what the Truman Doctrine was. … That was the foreign-policy establishment.” During that period, the U.S. government also helped create a system for restoring order to a world riven by war and economic crisis. That system, which evolved over the course of the Cold War and post-Cold War period, includes an open international economy; U.S. military and diplomatic alliances in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East; and liberal rules and institutions (human rights, the United Nations, and so on).

Why So Many Young Doctors Work Such Awful Hours

Neither truck drivers nor bankers would put up with a system like the one that influences medical residents’ schedules.

The path to becoming a doctor is notoriously difficult. Following pre-med studies and four years of medical school, freshly minted M.D.s must spend anywhere from three to seven years (depending on their chosen specialty) training as “residents” at an established teaching hospital. Medical residencies are institutional apprenticeships—and are therefore structured to serve the dual, often dueling, aims of training the profession’s next generation and minding the hospital’s labor needs.

How to manage this tension between “education and service” is a perennial question of residency training, according to Janis Orlowski, the chief health-care officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Orlowski says that the amount of menial labor residents are required to perform, known in the profession as “scut work,” has decreased "tremendously" since she was a resident in the 1980s. But she acknowledges that even "institutions that are committed to education … constantly struggle with this,” trying to stay on the right side of the boundary between training and taking advantage of residents.

The Facebook Algorithm Is Watching You

Here’s one way to confuse it.

You can tell a lot about a person from how they react to something.

That’s why Facebook’s various “Like” buttons are so powerful. Clicking a reaction icon isn’t just a way to register an emotional response, it’s also a way for Facebook to refine its sense of who you are. So when you “Love” a photo of a friend’s baby, and click “Angry” on an article about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, you’re training Facebook to see you a certain way: You are a person who seems to love babies and hate Tom Brady.

The more you click, the more sophisticated Facebook’s idea of who you are becomes. (Remember: Although the reaction choices seem limited now—Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry—up until around this time last year, there was only a “Like” button.)

How to Build an Autocracy

The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.

Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.

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The Christian Retreat From Public Life

Rod Dreher makes a powerful argument for communal religious life in his book, The Benedict Option. But he has not wrestled with how to live side by side with people unlike him.

Donald Trump was elected president with the help of 81 percent of white evangelical voters. Mike Pence, the champion of Indiana’s controversial 2015 religious-freedom law, is his deputy. Neil Gorsuch, a judge deeply sympathetic to religious litigants, will likely be appointed to the Supreme Court. And Republicans hold both chambers of Congress and statehouses across the country. Right now, conservative Christians enjoy more influence on American politics than they have in decades.

And yet, Rod Dreher is terrified.

“Don’t be fooled,” he tells fellow Christians in his new book, The Benedict Option. “The upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable.”

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