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In Search of Free Will and Moral Responsibility

In Who's in Charge. Free Will and the Science of the Brain, University of California, Santa Barbara cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga sets off in search of free will. After four chapters of digging for a useful theory of mind among the neurons, his results are disappointing. Far more impressive, however, is his intriguing and persuasive treatment of the moral implications of modern neuroscience. Metaphysics aside, what is really important is that people believe we have free will.

Gazzaniga convincingly argues that morality is an emergent property of minds (brains) interacting with one another. His discussion of the evolution of human sociality is fascinating. Over the eons humans have changed their physical and social environments, which in turn has shifted the sorts of genes, behaviors, and brains that successfully reproduce in a generally more cooperative direction. Gazzaniga cites the hypothesis of primatologists Brian Hare and Michael Tomasello who suggest that humans may have undergone a process of self-domestication in which overly aggressive or despotic individuals were reproductively weeded out — by being ostracized or killed by the group.

What Gazzaniga really fears are the potentially baleful effects of neuroscientific findings on our notions of personal responsibility. In general, the concept of free will is closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. If neuroscience shows that we are in thrall to our neurons, then how can we be held responsible for our actions, both condemnable and praiseworthy?

Gazzaniga is right to worry. He persuasively cites a 2011 study [PDF] in which researchers found that inducing disbelief in free will decreased helpfulness and increased aggression among experiment participants. He also notes that other recent studies [PDF] reported that people were more likely to cheat in psychological experiments after reading passages that encouraged a belief in determinism. The researchers note with irony, “Perhaps, denying free will simply provides the ultimate excuse to behave as one likes.” The results also caused the researchers to worry that “if exposure to deterministic messages increases the likelihood of unethical actions, then identifying approaches for insulating the public against this danger becomes imperative.” Surely they can’t mean that wise sages must tell a “noble lie” about free will in order to keep the plebes in line?

“Is accountability what keeps us civilized. ” asks Gazzaniga. He pretty clearly believes that answer is yes and he fears that if people don’t believe in free will, they will no longer hold themselves or others accountable for their actions. This is dangerous because numerous psychological experiments have shown that punishment [PDF] is the key to cooperation. If free riders cannot be punished, the networks of cooperation that underpin civilization break down. Of course, the worst type of free riding is criminal behavior, e.g. robbing, assaulting, and murdering others for personal gain.

“Our current legal system has emerged from innate intuitions, honed by evolution, just as our moral systems have been,” argues Gazzaniga. He notes that people often cite different rationales for punishing others, e.g. retribution, utility, and restoration. Retribution punishes offenders in proportion to the moral magnitude of the harms they committed. Utility justifies punishment as incapacitation or deterrence. And restorative justice extracts reparations to victims from offenders.

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FREE Evasive Self-Deception and Moral Responsibility Essay

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"Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.  “Theodor Adorno, 1949

For Adorno, both philosopher and critic, the Holocaust is something that cannot be expressed in any language, even that of poetry. For numerous others both during and after the immeasurable tragedy, the Holocaust remains virtually unimaginable. Even more disconcerting, however, is the extreme number of German participants who simply "evaded acknowledging the fact that the Jews were being deported to their death while the Final Solution was being carried out  (Jones, 79). In the fourth chapter of his Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust, David Jones discusses the nature of self-deception as well as the moral blameworthiness inherent in the actions (or lack thereof) of a significant part of the German populace motivated by feelings of "guilt, shame and responsibility  to engage in "evasive self-deception  during the Holocaust (81). Jones' discussion of "evasive self-deception  is of particular import in an assessment of moral responsibility among individual perpetrators in the Holocaust.

A logical but by no means obligatory component of moral responsibility, judgmental blame rests upon the simultaneous existence of five basic criteria: the performance of a wrong act, knowledge that the act is wrong, intentionality, voluntary performance and "a bad motive  (Jones, 21). Furthermore, role responsibility, which morally compels "a person to [assume] certain duties by virtue of occupying a social role or position, whether or not the duties are formally defined,  suggests that the very lack of performance of a dutiful and ostensibly good act (accompanied by the remaining four criteria) also supplies grounds for judgmental blame (Jones, 27). It is important to note, however, that grounds for judgmental blame exist only if "the social practice in which the role occurs is itself morally bad or unjust  (Jones, 27). In other words, role responsibil

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Moral Responsibility - Essay by Doreen

Moral Responsibility Essay

Below is an essay on "Moral Responsibility" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
Responsibility and obligation are closely related. In general, we have an obligation or a duty to fulfill our responsibilities, and we are responsible for fulfilling our obligations.

There are many kinds of responsibility
1. Parental Responsibility – parents are responsible for their children – raising them up, feeding them, and caring for them.
2. Citizenship Responsibility – this responsibility goes with public office and positions of trust.
3. Causal Responsibility – Causal responsibility an ingredient in both moral and legal responsibility. The causal chain sometimes is a long one. If I give a command and a number of people transmit that command until it is finally carried out, both the ones who carry out the action and I (the one issuing the command) are responsible for it, though eac is responsible in a differesnt way in the causal chain.

For an action to be a moral action, it must be done knowingly and willingly. For instance, though I am causally responsible for things I do in my sleep, I am not morally responsible for them. Actions I do in my sleep are neither moral nor immoral. When we say that I am morally responsible for an action, then, we mean:
• that I did the action (i.e. I am the cause of the result of the action),
• that I did the action knowingly, and
• that I did the action willingly or internationally.

Precluding the Possibility of Action
We are excused from moral responsibility if (a) the action in question is an impossible one to perform, (b) we do not have the ability required in the given case, (c) the opportunity for our performing the action is absent, or (d) the circumstances are beyond our control.

Conditions Precluding or Diminishing Required Knowledge
With respect to knowledge, we can distinguish two excusing conditions: (a) excusable ignorance and (b) invincible ignorance. Both are failures of knowledge. Lack of knowledge is excusable if through no fault of.

Bound: Essays on Free Will and Responsibility by Shaun Nichols (2015, Hardcover)

Bound. Essays on Free Will and Responsibility by Shaun Nichols (2015, Hardcover) Reviews

"What is manifestly true is that this book is worth the careful attention of anyone interested in moral psychology, moral responsibility, or the methodological issues that constrain philosophical debates. At the heart of Nichols' theory is a picture of moral responsibility as a deeply human practice, one that plays an important moral and practical role in our lives." --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Online "Few philosophy books are as diversely valuable to the discipline as this engaging volume on free will. scholars at the highest levels will be seriously interested in Nichols's techniques, which rely on experimental philosophy to analyze the psychological motivations for the inferences and positions in the classic free will debate. The prose is lucid, the book is well organized, and the science and philosophy are seamlessly integrated. Essential." -- Choice ". Nichols work is an invaluable asset, bringing together recent work in psychology and experimental philosophy and analyzing them in the context of the free will debate." -- Metapsychology Online Reviews

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Do We Have Moral Responsibility? Research Paper

Do We Have Moral Responsibility? Do We Have Moral Responsibility?

“We cannot be held morally responsible for our actions” Discuss
In order to successfully consider this statement, we must attempt to answer two fundamental questions. Firstly, whether humanity is able to possess true free will, and secondly whether without freewill, we are ever able to take complete responsibility for our actions. The latter question is relatively easy to answer. If we accept that we have absolutely no free will, we must accept that we can never be held truly responsible for our moral behaviour. Without free will, humans lose the ability to control their own actions and therefore cannot be held responsible for them. If we reject determinism, at least in its purist sense, it is then necessary to judge the extent to which are actions have been influenced by outside stimuli. These questions call into question the very notions of human morality.
Firstly we much attempt to explore whether people are truly free at all. This forms a philosophical topic that has been debated on for hundreds of years. Do humans act the way they do freely, out of moral obligation or other motivation, or are in fact our actions predetermined by our environment and our experiences? The case for determinism, the belief that humans conduct is dictated to them through outside stimuli has been forcibly put by many of the leading philosophers and religious thinkers throughout History. Martin Luther’s “On the bondage of will” coupled with John Calvin’s, beliefs in religious “predestination” which hoped to remove power from the Catholic Church in Rome, signalled the beginning of theological determinism. This school of theological thought argued that God had already determined fate of humanity, having chosen the few who are destined for heaven and the many condemned to damnation. These ideas were later manifested themselves in “antinomianism”, a theory which believed God had chosen a few Christians which would have the ability to exert their own form of freewill over those who do.

  • Do Deep Self Views Provide An Adequate Account Of Free Will And Moral Responsibility? free will and moral responsibility. If a person "could not have done otherwise" then surely he cannot be free or morally responsible. Compatibilists argue against.
  • Morally Responsible For Hoeman's Death could see, himself. In conclusion, it is evident that Creon must be given full moral responsibility for the death of his own son. Only was it after the death of.
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Determinism, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Determinism, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Determinism is bound to remain one of the more intriguing problems in philosophy as well as science. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: “There is no agreement over whether determinism is true (or even whether it can be known true or false) and what the import for human agency would be in either case.”

The determinist position is that, in a universe governed by the strictest natural laws, all events arise naturally and inevitably from causative factors that follow these laws. Determinism thus affirms the inevitability of the actual. It is difficult to see how this can be disproved conclusively—even in theory.

As far as the physical, inanimate world is concerned, the determinist position has been seriously challenged by the discovery of indeterminacy at the level of subatomic particles. This indeterminacy exists with respect to what can be measured and what can be predicted, however what actually happens is the crucial issue. Refuting Einstein’s famous saying that God does not play dice, Stephen Hawking has this to say:

But even this limited predictability disappeared, when the effects of black holes were taken into account. The loss of particles and information down black holes meant that the particles that came out were random. One could calculate probabilities, but one could not make any definite predictions. Thus, the future of the universe is not completely determined by the laws of science and its present state, as Laplace thought. God still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

It would be rashly presumptuous of a layman to question Hawking, but it’s difficult to see how the inability to make definite predictions can affect what actually happens. Determinism is about what actually happens.

Extrapolating from the behavior of subatomic particles to the phenomena of the macro world does not seem to be justified. But extending indeterminism to mental events—and to the exercise of free will—can plausibly be justified on the grounds that all mental events involve subtle events at subatomic levels. The question of free will leads to issues of moral responsibility. And these two issues are of direct interest to humanism. There are those who believe that determinism is incompatible with free will and moral responsibility. As Immanuel Kant says: “If our will is itself determined by antecedent causes, then we are no more accountable for our actions than any other mechanical object whose movements are internally conditioned.” But David Hume, a leading proponent of the “compatibilist” position, held the view that freedom and moral responsibility can be reconciled with (causal) determinism.

Bertrand Russell’s views on determinism and moral responsibility (from his Elements of Ethics ) are worth quoting at length. “The grounds in favor of determinism appear to me overwhelming, and I shall content myself with a brief indication of these grounds,” he writes. “The question I am concerned with is not the free will question itself, but the question how, if at all, morals are affected by assuming determinism.” He goes on:

Among physically possible actions, only those which we actually think of are to be regarded as possible. When several alternative actions present themselves, it is certain that we can both do which we choose, and choose which we will. In this sense all the alternatives are possible. What determinism maintains is that our will to choose this or that alternative is the effect of antecedents; but this does not prevent our will from being itself a cause of other effects. And the sense in which different decisions are possible seems sufficient to distinguish some actions as right and some as wrong, some as moral and some as immoral.

It would seem, therefore, that the objections to determinism are mainly attributable to misunderstanding of its purport. Hence, finally it is not determinism but free will that has subversive consequences. There is therefore no reason to regret that the grounds in favor of determinism are overwhelmingly strong.

Contemporary British philosopher Galen Strawson has another view. For him, whether determinism is true or not, no one is ever ultimately responsible for his actions, morally speaking. His so-called “Basic Argument” is:

  1. You do what you do, in any given situation, because of the way you are.
  2. In order to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are—at least in certain crucial mental aspects.
  3. But you cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.
  4. So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.

Among humanists, opinion about determinism seems to be divided. In Corliss Lamont’s “10 Points for Humanism” listed in his book, The Philosophy of Humanism. the fourth point is: “Humanism, in opposition to all theories of universal determinism, fatalism, or predestination, believes that human beings, while conditioned by the past, possess genuine freedom of creative choice and action, and are, within certain objective limits, the shapers of their own destiny.”

Barbara Smoker, on the other hand, believes that most humanists are determinists. In her book, Humanism. she writes:

Believers in a good and almighty god generally believe in human freedom of will, for how otherwise could human beings be given total blame for their “sins,” let alone for the evils of the world? Most humanists, however, insofar as the old “free will/ determinism” argument lingers on, are determinists. This does not mean that they deny all human freedom and responsibility, but it does mean that we are less free than we feel we are, since our actions are determined (caused) by the genes we were born with (heredity) and the things that have happened to us in life (environment), for what else is there to cause them?

What do we mean by free will? Is there any action that can demonstrate the existence of free will? All creatures act to follow an impulse. Is a moth circling a flame acting freely? “Spinoza compares the feeling of free will,” we are told by Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy. “to a stone’s thinking as it travels through space that it determines its own trajectory and selects the place and time of its fall.” One has to accept

Strawson’s contention that there is a “fundamental sense” in which free will is impossible. By this he probably means that it is impossible to establish free will by objective criteria.

The important thing is to recognize the essential subjectivity of free will. A person is convinced that his actions follow his own decisions and impulses; he is not aware of any forces (inside or outside) pushing him. In instances where he acts “in spite of himself”—as in cases of compulsive disorders—he cannot be said to be exercising his free will.

Lastly, no serious discussion of determinism can be complete without taking a view about the nature of time. As per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on causal determinism, “Physics, particularly twentieth-century physics, does have one lesson to impart to the free will debate: a lesson about the relationship between time and determinism.” Newtonian time, the time of our everyday experience, has been superseded, but no universally accepted model seems to have emerged so far. Einstein says to a friend: “People like us … know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” In this picture of the universe—Einstein and Minkowski’s block universe—the past, present, and future, as perceived by us, exist together in another dimension. In Einstein’s words: “From a ‘happening’ in three-dimensional space, physics becomes … an ‘existence’ in the four-dimensional world.” Like the frames in a celluloid film, the past, present, and future already (if that is the appropriate word) exist. Each observer’s “now” travels along the film to create his particular experience of time. Our universe is inescapably indexical.

This picture of time is highly repugnant to those who see it as negating free will. “And if I am going to be told that my idea that I make choices, take action, interfere, possibly change the future, is all an illusion,” protests the novelist J.B. Priestley in his nonfiction work, Man and Time. “then I shall want to know how this block universe, this frozen history, came into existence, who colored it, and what is the point of this vast, idiotic conjuring trick. A consciousness that is no more than a policeman’s lantern moving along a back alley—and indeed much less, because no action can follow from it—is not worth having.” Maybe there is no point—or it is up to us to see the point.

Humanists, as rationalists, believe in the sovereignty of fact. But where facts are not ascertainable, rational and constructive assumptions have to be made. One might call it the regency of assumptions. Since neither determinism nor free will can be proved to be a fact, pragmatic humanism must assume that every person bears moral responsibility for his or her actions. Any other course is bound to have disastrous social consequences.

Vir Narain is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force, chairman of the Indian Humanist Union, and the editor of the quarterly Humanist Outlook.

Do Deep Self Views Provide An Adequate Account Of Free Will And Moral Responsibility? Free Essays

Do Deep Self Views Provide An Adequate Account Of Free Will And Moral Responsibility?

Do "Deep Self Views" provide an adequate conception of free will and moral responsibility?

Incompatibilists claim that causal determinism and human free will are mutually exclusive. If determinism obtains, then every event is inevitable. Incompatibilists conclude that all human actions are unavoidable and therefore there is no free will or moral responsibility. Compatibilists deny that there is a conflict between determinism and free will. Intuitively, is seems sound to suppose that alternate possibilities are necessary for free will and moral responsibility. If a person "could not have done otherwise" then surely he cannot be free or morally responsible. Compatibilists argue against this incompatibilist intuition. It is litigious as to whether they succeed, though this is not the focus of this paper. Compatibilists must also provide the debate with an adequate alternate account of free will and moral responsibility that is not threatened by determinism.

Traditional compatibilist arguments of philosophers like Hobbes fail to present a sufficient testimony of free will. The majority of the newly developed compatibilist accounts of free will and moral responsibility are either based upon theories of "hierarchical motivation", as pioneered by Harry Frankfurt, or written in opposition to them. Ð''According to hierarchical theorists like Frankfurt, classical compatibilism is deficient because it gives us only a theory of freedom of action (being able to do what we will), but not a theory of freedom of will (being able to will what we will, so to speak).' Wolf refers to the account of Frankfurt and similar compatibilist arguments as "Deep Self Views" because they assert that a person has free will when he is acting from his deep or true self. The distinction between the various brands of Deep Self Views is how each philosopher chooses to define a person's true self. This paper will demonstrate the failure of Deep Self Views to provide an adequate account of free will and moral responsibility; not only do they encounter numerous objections to the practical application of the theories, but they fail to placate the suspicions people have about the dichotomy between moral responsibility and determinism. In order to establish these deficiencies it is necessary to illustrate the consistent limitations of several variations of the Deep Self theme. Although it is clear that Deep Self Views are an improvement for compatibilist theories of free will, they are ultimately unsuccessful.

Although Frankfurt never explicitly wrote from the compatibilist perspective, his model of free will provided the foundations for many who do. He aimed to create a conception of free will that would be Ð''neutral with regard to the problem of determinism.' In his seminal paper "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" Frankfurt highlights the distinction between freedom of action and freedom of will. Crucially, to be free an agent must have the ability to be self-reflective. A creature who lacks this ability is a "wanton". A wanton has no interest in which of his desires are effective in prompting him to act. Whilst a wanton may rationalize between different inclinations, he lacks the capability to truly reflect upon them. A "person", the opposite of a wanton, has the ability to be evaluative about his desires. The division is clear: Ð''when a person acts, the desire by which he is motivated is either the will he wants or the will he wants to be without. When a wanton acts, it is neither.'

Frankfurt illustrates a distinction between first-order and second-order desires. First-order desires are basic urges to act in a certain way or to have a particular commodity. These are experienced by persons and wantons alike. Second-order volitions are a person's reflections on the desires that motivate him to act, and are elemental in being a person in Frankfurt's terms. For example, let us suppose that Anuj is experiencing conflicting first-order desires concerning whether or not to commit tax evasion; he wants commit the crime, but he also wants to refrain from committing it. Yet, Anuj also wants a particular one of these conflicting desires to be effective, and not simply the one that creates the strongest urge within him. As a person, Anuj is reflective about his desires: he has the second-order volition never to break the law. This evaluative desire represents Anuj's deep self. The theory states that a person is free if he is capable of keeping his actions consistent with his deep self. Therefore, if Anuj acts in accordance with his second-order volition, he refrains from committing tax evasion, then he is free.

Frankfurt's theory maintains that unfree people may have freedom of action. However, they cannot be held morally responsible for their actions because they lack freedom of the will. They are unable to control the desires which motivate them to act. Ð''It is in securing the conformity of his will to his second-order volitions, then, that a person exercises freedom of the will.' Frankfurt argues that it is a person's ability to act upon their own self-reflection about their desires (second-order volitions) that grounds ascriptions of moral responsibility. In this way, Frankfurt has improved on the classical compatibilist theories of free will because he accounts for our intuitions concerning the lack of freedom of people suffering from compulsive disorders like kleptomania or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Furthermore, a person does not need to have freedom of action to be morally responsible. Even if it is impossible for a person to act in any other way, if the action is in accordance with his second-order volitions then he is still morally responsible. Frankfurt's theory requires that a person is free and responsible when his actions conform to the first-order desire that his second-order volitions support. However, it is not required that any of these desires or volitions be undetermined. As long as a person has the will that he wants to have, and is capable of actualising it, then he is free and morally responsible regardless of whether his higher-order volition for that will is determined or not.

Frankfurt's theory of hierarchical motivation was a groundbreaking improvement for the proponents of compatibilism in the 1970s because it recognises the need to account for freedom of the will but allows for the possibility of determinism. Frankfurt's theory aims to create a model of free will that is acceptable to incompatibilists and is not threatened by the possibility that determinism obtains. However the theory is met with several practical objections.