The true nature of moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom and determinism–libertarianism, hard determinism

Moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom and determinism–libertarianism, hard determinism

According to the principle of determinism, every event that takes place in the world has a cause. Whether or not the event is snow falling, birds chirping or humans thinking, the determinist asserts that each and every event that occurs in the world has a cause, or series of causes, that makes the event, and everything connected to it, inevitable.

Now consider what this means for your thoughts at this present moment and for your forthcoming Module 3 Essay. Presumably, at this present moment, you are thinking very deeply about formulating a thesis that is interesting, compelling, specific and shows good understanding of the material. And, hopefully, these thoughts will lead to a high quality essay. However, if determinism is true (and, of course, there are very good reasons for thinking that it is), EVERY single thing that you are thinking at this present moment is the unavoidable product of your personality (<link is hidden> brain state, genetics and upbringing), the situation that you find yourself in, along with basic laws of nature. The same goes for your forthcoming essay. In this way, the particular thesis that you will end up “choosing,” the quality of your essay and the words that you will employ, all would be inevitable and indeed predictable (in principle) from the moment of your birth. In such a case, would it make sense to say that you deserve the grade that you will get on your essay?

Notice that the same type of question can be posed for ANY human event for which we might be inclined to ascribe praise and blame. Did Mother Teresa deserve to be praised for her charitable acts? Did Hitler deserve to be condemned for his moral atrocities? Ultimately, the answer to these questions depends on one’s view of the complex relationship between determinism, freedom and moral responsibility.

 

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