freewill booklet

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  • Created on: 20-05-11 14:31
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Freewill and Determinism
Hard Determinism
· Hard determinism maintains that we are not free and cannot be held morally responsible
for our actions: 'All our choices, decisions, intentions, other mental events, and our actions
are no more than effects of other equally necessitated events.' (Honderich)
· Predestination is a Christian view held by some Protestants that God has
already decided who will be saved and who will not, suggesting that humans
are not free to secure salvation. John Calvin (1506--64) described it as `the
eternal decree of God, by which God determined what God wished to make
of every man. For God does not create everyone in the same condition, but
ordains eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others.' (Institutes,
· Augustine (Divine Election, 4th-5th century) implied that God has
some role in our formation as good or bad people:
`The potter has authority over the clay from the same lump to make
one vessel for honour and another for contempt.'
· All actions have a prior cause. This challenges the notion of moral
responsibility as people do not have freedom to deliberate or
make a free choice.
· The sense of deliberation is an illusion. Spinoza wrote:
`Men think themselves free on account of this alon e, that they
are conscious of their actions and ignorant of the causes of
them' (Ethica Online Geometrico Demonstrata, 1674).
· Traditional understandings of the scientific world and modern
understandings of genetic engineering suggests there may be causal
relationships or strong influences between one action and another
· Determinism means that we are mistaken to praise some people for being good or for
blaming others for being bad as determinism calls the idea of moral responsibility into
· Determinism has been used in criminal eases as a justification for a lesser punishment
when it demonstrated that the accused was not in frill control of themselves (such as
diminished responsibility when an abused wife murders her abuser husband).
· The upbringing of a person (nurture) can affect their ability to make moral decisions,
though this does not necessarily mean they
should not be punished.
· Some argue that determinism undermines
moral responsibility and the possibility for
using words like `moral' or `immoral'. Kant
said, `ought implies can,' defining moral
actions as freely undertaken actions. If we
are not free to act, we are not morally
responsible for the act.
Soft determinism

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· Some acts are determined, but we have some moral responsibility for our actions.
· Determinism does not rule out free will -- the two are compatible and so moral decisions
and moral debate remains possible.
· Some of our actions are conditioned, while others have so complex a collection of causes
that they may properly be described as freely decided or willed.…read more

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`Unless we assume that everyone is free to make moral choices, we have no right to punish
criminals.' Discuss.
You could explore the implications of the idea of freedom of moral choice for
moral responsibility; with reference to libertarianism and possibly Kant.
You might explain how determinism implies a lack of moral freedom as criminals
might be predetermined to offend because of nurture or nature (genetic
disposition or upbringing). Examples should be given to illustrate this idea.…read more


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