Freedom of will and moral responsibility

Freedom of will and moral responsibility

From its earliest beginnings, the problem of “free will” has been intimately connected with the question of moral responsibility.

Most of the ancient thinkers on the problem were trying to show that we humans have control over our decisions, that our actions “depend on us”, and that they are not pre-determined by fate, by arbitrary gods, by logical necessity, or by a natural causal Almost everything written about free will to date has been verbal and formal logical debate about the precise meaning of philosophical concepts like causality, necessity, and other dogmas of The “problem of free will” is ofen described as a question of reconciling “free will” with one or more of the many kinds of determinism. As a result, the “problem of free will” depends on two things, the exact defnition of free will and which of the determinisms is being reconciled.

The libertarian view states that some human decisions and actions, particularly moral and religious decisions, are strictly uncaused. In the most sophisticated forms of libertarianism, these decisions are not even caused by our desires or character. They are very insistent on this: a truly free act is not an act which carries out our strongest desire; it rather, typically, goes against our strongest desire. The libertarian is aware, of course, that our desires are largely a function of our heredity, environment, past decisions and so on. If free decisions are based on desires, he thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused.

The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.” If I am strapped to a robotic machine which, using my arms, robs a bank, I am not to blame for robbing the bank. I “could not have done otherwise.” Such is the libertarian argument.

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