What about free will?

I asked a straight forward question about free will and you’re your answer was Blah Blah Blah. If you don’t think that people have free will then why should anyone be responsible for their actions? If I hit you it’s because I had no choice so you can’t blame me.

Sure I can. In fact, in a purely deterministic universe I would have no choice but to blame you.

Looking at this less flippantly, if a car malfunctions, we don’t blame the car but we do go ahead and get it fixed. In a purely deterministic world, holding people responsible for their actions is simply a way to try to either fix a faulty thought process or protect the rest of society from someone who’s thought processes are harmful to others.

Consider the case of someone who has a neurological condition that causes him to lash out at anyone who blinks. Let’s say that we can run a brain scan and see that this is because the person has a physical disorder. Such a person can harm others through no choice of his own. Do we blame the person for causing harm? No, but we don’t just let him go around harming others, either. We seek medical treatment or, lacking that, find ways to isolate the individual so he cannot do harm.

So, with this example in mind, we should be able to agree that we can ethically take action against someone who harms others whether or not they have free will.

You might argue that the person who inadvertently lashes out is not treated in the same way as someone who lashes out purposefully. That’s generally true, but in that case we are either trying to get someone to modify a thought process that they have conscious control over or (as in the previous case) isolating someone so he cannot do harm.

We can argue about what the word “blame” means, but in the end there is sufficient justification for punishing certain actions whether or not free will exists.

Posted on April 3, 2008 at 4:16 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion, Misc

One Response

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  1. Written by Anon
    on August 14, 2008 at 10:00 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Author wins.

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