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Moral Responsibility

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Moral Responsibility Themes in Ethics and Epistemology Shane Ryan s.g.ryan_at_sms.ed.ac.uk 16/10/13 Questions! 6. Galen Strawson s Pessimism (1) It is undeniable that ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Moral Responsibility


1
Moral Responsibility
  • Themes in Ethics and Epistemology
  • Shane Ryan
  • s.g.ryan_at_sms.ed.ac.uk
  • 16/10/13

2
Problem
  • There's a compelling case that we don't have free
    will. But if we don't have free will then it's
    hard to see how we can have moral responsibility.
  • And if we don't think that people can have moral
    responsibility then it's hard to see how we can
    morally praise or blame anyone. But if we can't
    morally praise and blame, then we can't laud
    people such as Gandhi or condemn people such as
    Hitler.

3
Structure
  • 1. Free Will
  • 2. Determinism and Indeterminism
  • 3. Positions on Free Will
  • 4. Moral Responsibility
  • 5. Frankfurts compatibilist argument
  • 6. Strawson's Pessimism

4
1. Free Will
Case 1 John is struggling to finish writing an
essay. The essay has to be submitted in the next
day. He gets an sms from a girl he likes inviting
him to a party taking place that very evening.
John can choose to continue to work on his essay
or go to the party. John chooses to continue to
work on his essay. It looks like John has
exercised his free will.
5
1. Free Will
Case 2 Lena is an international student
who has just completed her MA. She has lived away
from home for the last four years. She enjoys
living abroad but she knows that her family would
like her to move back home. Lena also knows that
she could continue living abroad. Lena faces a
choice between moving back home and continuing to
live abroad. She chooses to continue living
abroad. It looks like Lena has exercised her
free will.
6
1. Free Will
  • But some philosophers deny that people have free
    will therefore they would deny that John and
    Lena have exercised free will. (And that John and
    Lena can be said to have made a choice in the
    sense in which people using the word ordinarily
    mean.)
  • But what reason could they have for denying the
    common sense claim that we have free will?

7
1. Free Will
  • But first we should try to get clearer on what is
    meant by free will.
  • Is exercising free will just wanting something
    and doing it?
  • Suppose as part of an experiment a team of
    psychologists had brainwashed John into wanting
    to work on his essay above all else.
  • If this were the case, then it would seem
    mistaken to say that John exercised his free will
    in the case described.

8
1. Free Will
  • Some attempts at a provisional definition
  • Timothy OConnor (2011) Free Will is a
    philosophical term of art for a particular sort
    of capacity of rational agents to choose a course
    of action from among various alternatives. Which
    sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss
    is about.
  • (Emphasis added.)

9
1. Free Will
  • Michael McKenna (2009) As a theory-neutral
    point of departure, free will can be defined as
    the unique ability of persons to exercise control
    over their conduct in the fullest manner
    necessary for moral responsibility. Clearly, this
    definition is too lean when taken as an endpoint
    the hard philosophical work is about how best to
    develop this special kind of control. But however
    this notion of control is developed, its
    uniqueness consists, at least in part, in being
    possessed only by persons.

10
1. Free Will
  • The main components mentioned
  • A particular sort of capacity to choose.
  • Free will involves control of an agent over her
    action or conduct.
  • It requires a level of control necessary to allow
    for moral responsibility.
  • It is only possessed by rational agents/persons.

11
2. Determinism and Indeterminism
The Classical Formulation of the free will
problem 1. Some person (qua agent), at some
time, could have acted otherwise than she did.
2. Actions are events. 3. Every event has a
cause. 4. If an event is caused, then it is
causally determined. 5. If an event is an act
that is causally determined, then the agent of
the act could not have acted otherwise than in
the way that she did. (McKenna, 2009.)
12
2. Determinism and Indeterminism
  • Determinism and indeterminism
  • Timpe (2006) Causal determinism... is the
    thesis that the course of the future is entirely
    determined by the conjunction of the past and the
    laws of nature.
  • Timpe asks us to imagine a proposition that
    comprehensively describes the universe at some
    point in the past, and a proposition that
    expresses each of the laws of nature. Determinism
    is the view that given these two propositions
    there is only one possible future.

13
2. Determinism and Indeterminism
  • Determinism and indeterminism
  • This not the view that finite beings are able to
    predict exactly how the universe will turn out.
  • Neither is it the fatalistic view that something
    (say passing your exams) is bound to happen
    regardless of what you do.

14
2. Determinism and Indeterminism
  • Determinism and indeterminism
  • Two kinds of ways the world might not be
    deterministic
  • - If the laws of nature are indeterministic or
    probabilistic.
  • - If some entities are not completely governed
    by the laws of nature.
  • Doesnt quantum theory claim that the world isnt
    deterministic? The standard interpretation of
    quantum theory claims that events at the
    micro-particle level are indeterministic. But
    even if there is quantum indeterminacy, that
    doesnt show that larger objects, like us, arent
    subject to deterministic laws. (Timpe, 2006)

15
2. Determinism and Indeterminism
  • Determinism and indeterminism
  • So even if we have reason to reject determinism,
    near determinism may still be true much of our
    universe including ourselves are governed by
    deterministic laws.
  • (Timpe, 2006)

16
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Determinism and indeterminism are theses about
    the nature of our universe.
  • Traditionally the truth of either claim is taken
    to have implications for free will.
  • Incompatibilists think that free will is
    incompatible with determinism
  • Compatibilists think that free will is compatible
    with determinism.

17
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Incompatibilist positions Hard determinism and
    libertarianism.
  • Hard determinism
  • P1. If determinism is true then we dont have
    free will.
  • P2. Determinism is true.
  • C. We dont have free will.
  • - When John stays in to work on his essay he has
    not exercised his free will.

18
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Libertarianism
  • P1. If determinism is true then we dont have
    free will.
  • P2. We do have free will.
  • C. Determinism is not true.
  • - When Sarah stays abroad she has exercised her
    free will.
  • (The libertarian needs indeterminism to be true
    for it to be true that we have free will.)

19
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Compatibilists hold that free will and
    determinism are compatible. They dont think that
    one rules out the other.
  • Therefore a compatibilist is committed to
    rejecting P1 (If determinism is true then we
    dont have free will.)

20
3. Positions on Free Will
1. Some person (qua agent), at some time, could
have acted otherwise than she did. 2. Actions
are events. 3. Every event has a cause. 4. If
an event is caused, then it is causally
determined. 5. If an event is an act that is
causally determined, then the agent of the act
could not have acted otherwise than in the way
that she did. (McKenna, 2009.)
21
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Within this framework the compatibilist would
    have to deny (5).
  • Similarly the incompatibilist would have to
    affirm (5).
  • Of the incompatibilist positions
  • - The hard determinist will reject (1).
  • - The libertarian might reject (3) or (4).
  • All might question whether (1) correctly
    represents what free will is.
  • (McKenna, 2009.)

22
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Why might we think that (1) correctly represents
    what free will is?
  • The Garden of Forking Paths Model
  • In Johns case what seems important in order to
    say that he has free will is that he had the
    ability to choose between at least two
    alternatives, that different paths lay open to
    him. He has the ability to either stay and work
    on his essay or go to the party.
  • But remember that determinism is the claim that
    there is only one possible future.

23
3. Positions on Free Will
  • An argument against the Garden of Forking Paths
    Model
  • (P1) If a person acts of her own free will, then
    she could have done otherwise.
  • (P2) If determinism is true, no one can do
    otherwise than one actually does.
  • (C) Therefore, if determinism is true, no one
    acts of her own free will.
  • (McKenna, 2009.)

24
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Source Incompatibilist Argument
  • We might think whats important is not that John
    actually had two possible paths open to him but
    that his action came from him in the right way
    that he chose makes him the source of what
    happened in the right kind of way.
  • John wanting to do well in his essay was the
    source of his action. It is that which means it
    makes sense to say that he exercised his free
    will.
  • But now we might worry that that source itself
    has a further source that lines outside of John.

25
3. Positions on Free Will
  • Again accepting determinism seems to rule out the
    possibility of free will.
  • Source Incompatibilist Argument
  • (P1) A person acts of her own free will only if
    she is its ultimate source.
  • (P2) If determinism is true, no one is the
    ultimate source of her actions.
  • (C) Therefore, if determinism is true, no one
    acts of her own free will.
  • (McKenna, 2009.)

26
4. Moral Responsibility
  • Free will seems at the least to be a necessary
    condition for moral responsibility. If we dont
    have free will then it seems that we cant have
    moral responsibility.
  • What is moral responsibility?
  • - A morally responsible person is one who is
    able to do morally right or wrong action and is
    accountable for her morally significant conduct.
    Such a person may aptly be morally praised or
    blamed. (McKenna, 2009.)

27
4. Moral Responsibility
  • Galen Strawson (1994 9) provides a more
    colourful explanation of moral responsibility
  • As I understand it, true moral responsibility
    is responsibility of such a kind that, if we have
    it, then it makes sense, at least, to suppose
    that it could be just to punish some of us with
    (eternal) torment in hell and reward others with
    (eternal) bliss in heaven.

28
4. Moral Responsibility
  • We want to say that people like Gandhi are
    morally praiseworthy, while people like Paul Pot
    are morally blameworthy.
  • More mundanely, we want to say that someone who
    stops another person being bullied is morally
    praiseworthy, while someone who cheats in exams
    is morally blameworthy.

29
4. Moral Responsibility
  • Why does claiming that we dont have free will
    appear to imply that we dont have moral
    responsibility either?
  • If Paul Pot didnt have free will then how can we
    blame him for what he did?
  • Similarly, why should we praise Gandhi if he
    wasnt acting on the basis of free will?

30
5. Frankfurts compatibilist argument
  • Frankfurts argument against the Principle of
    Alternative Possibilities (PAP).
  • PAP A person is morally responsible for what she
    does do only if she can do otherwise.

31
5. Frankfurts compatibilist argument
  • Jones has resolved to shoot Smith. Black has
    learned of Jones's plan and wants Jones to shoot
    Smith. However, Black is concerned that Jones
    might waver in his resolve to shoot Smith, Black
    secretly arranges things so that, if Jones should
    show any sign at all that he will not shoot Smith
    (something Black has the resources to detect),
    Black will be able to manipulate Jones in such a
    way that Jones will shoot Smith. As things
    transpire, Jones follows through with his plans
    and shoots Smith for his own reasons. No one else
    in any way threatened or coerced Jones, offered
    Jones a bribe, or even suggested that he shoot
    Smith. Jones shot Smith under his own steam.
    Black never intervened.
  • (McKenna, 2009.)

32
5. Frankfurts compatibilist argument
  • In the case described, Jones couldnt have done
    otherwise. He couldnt have not shot Smith.
    Nevertheless, intuitively Jones is still morally
    responsible for his action. (McKenna, 2009.)
  • Determinism may still be incompatible with the
    sort of free will that involves a capacity to do
    otherwise, but Frankfurts argument suggests that
    we dont need that for moral responsibility.

33
6. Galen Strawsons Pessimism
  • Pessimism
  • Neither determinism nor indeterminism can result
    in us having moral responsibility. Pessimists
    believe that free will of the sort necessary for
    moral responsibility is impossible, even though
    they might accept certain compatibilist
    formulations of freedom. (Galen Strawson,
    forthcoming.)

34
6. Galen Strawsons Pessimism
  • (1) It is undeniable that one is the way one is,
    initially, as a result of heredity and early
    experience.(2) It is undeniable that these are
    things for which one cannot be held to be in any
    way responsible.(3) One cannot at any later
    stage of ones life hope to attain ultimate
    responsibility for the way one is by trying to
    change the way one already is as a result of
    ones heredity and previous experience.For one
    may well try to change oneself, but(4) both the
    particular way in which one is moved to try to
    change oneself, and the degree of ones success
    in ones attempt at change, will be determined by
    how one already is as a result of heredity and
    previous experience.

35
6. Galen Strawsons Pessimism
  • (5) any further changes that one can bring about
    only after one has brought about certain initial
    changes will in turn be determined, via the
    initial changes, by heredity and previous
    experience.(6) This may not be the whole story,
    for it may be that some changes in the way one is
    are traceable to the influence of indeterministic
    or random factors. But (7) it is foolish to
    suppose that indeterministic or random factors,
    for which one is ex hypothesi in no way
    responsible, can in themselves contribute to
    ones being truly or ultimately responsible for
    how one is.(Galen Strawson)

36
6. Galen Strawsons Pessimism
  • The implications
  • Every detail of how you are is a matter of luck.
  • Whether you behave like Paul Pot or Gandhi is
    also a matter a luck.
  • If your behaviour is a matter of luck, then you
    are not morally responsible.
  • The same is true of everyone and therefore Jones
    is not morally responsible for shooting Smith.
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