Which theory best explains the true nature of moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom and determinism – libertarianism, hard determinism or compatibilism?
The Theory that Best Explains the True Nature of Moral Responsibility
In the past, if one would ask similar question regarding the theory that would best explain the idea of moral responsibility, then most definitely one would get a number of theoretical concepts. However, (Henslin, 2011) asserts that theoretical answers provide the basis for getting conceptual framework based on experiences and facts. In philosophy (determinism to be specific), in relation to moral responsibility, then most probably we could get an answer that offers theories based on personal experiences only. When one looks at the positions on hard-determinism, compatibilism or libertarianism, one finds that descriptions of an individual experiences are provided for what they think to be for the cases of morality, freedom and determinism. I find that the explanation for the true nature of moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom is best captured under the theory of determinism. I find the theory to be most comprehensive, with its particular assertions that determined mind, morals and human freedom exist.
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Determinism is real and this can be explained with the simple example of causes of one’s behavior. If one chose to sit down with one’s mother, father, behavioral therapist and an evolutionary biologist, then definitely one can trace the causes of their behavior. The causes of one’s past behavior can be examined and explained in detail when these individuals examines one’s decisions or why they behave in a particular manner. According to (Lawhead, 2014) the determinist theory posits that every event is casually determined. The author further asserts that human actions, thoughts, decisions and choices constitute events that are casually determined. A denial of this basic principle would amount to denial of the universal principle of causation that has been explained by the physicists, behavioral biologists and psychologists. For example, if one is found to have suicide tendencies, a psychologist could possible find that such a person could have been born and raised in an abusive family.
No one can doubt the existence of free will, which (Lawhead, 2014) has described in the book as being “real”. The author further asserts that free will exists side by side with determinism, which makes Libertarianism an incorrect proposition. In the book, though Jean-Paul Sartre provides a good case on what it is to be human and what we believe to be free will, he provides a case for determinism in his Being and Nothingness. Sartre says: “Thus, there are no accidents in life”, which can be loosely translated to mean that the decisions or choices that humans make are often solid and since people chose them, there can never be accidents but product of our choices. I am in support of this analysis simply because there are numerous examples that can prove the assertion to be succinct. For example, Sartre provides a case of war or suicide where an individual must develop a great deal of reasoning, representing strong causes acting on an individual.
Libertarianism also fails to recognize the fact that human behavior can be influenced. According to (Lawhead, 2014) the common presupposition of the determinist is that it is possible for other people’s behavior to be causally affected. The author reiterates that if at all the actions or violations of humans were not as a result of causes that acted on them, then people would not be rewarded or punished for their actions. In the absence of deterministic causes, it would be unpredictable to determine human behavior. However, owing to determinism, the behavior of people cannot only be predicted, but can also be altered or influenced. This further signifies the causal connection between the cause that comes before an act of will and the resulting behavior. It is the degree to which a person’s psychological state and the causes and control of such causes that determines the degree of predicting their behavior as well as influencing what such a person can do.
Moreover, I find the theory of determinism to be more universal and in agreement with the scientific laws of nature unlike the theory of libertarianism. According to (Lawhead, 2014) there has been progress throughout the history of mankind, with early assertions being explained in terms of deterministic laws. The ancient Greeks for instance, held the early believe that a stone would fall to the ground on the basis of desire of reunion with the mother earth. Similarly, the arbitrary will of gods was thought be the reason behind other natural events such as plagues, eclipses, thunderstorms and good harvest (p. 275). Instead, the growth in human understanding has made people to realize that the causes of such events had nothing to do with the gods or the stones, but were rather governed by the deterministic laws.
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Although the theory of determinism offers a more plausible explanation of the true nature of moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom, the theory is not free from some drawbacks. According to (Lawhead, 2014) the issue of universal causation as supported by determinism offers two extremes of an argument, leaving no explanation for events that fall in the middle of the ground. For example, Lawhead gives an example of psychological tendencies of two individuals, where one loves crowd while the other loves solitude. However, the fact that people have behavioral tendencies and influences on their behavior means the causation theory falls short.
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