- Wed, Nov 29, 2017
- 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
- Sourced by
Added Nov 20 2017
Moral responsibility presupposes free will. To be morally responsible for one's actions makes sense only if those actions are freely chosen. Free will may be constrained by deterministic and indeterministic factors, but some degree of it is necessary to maintain moral responsibility as a coherent concept.
The British philosopher Galen Strawson argues that moral responsibility is impossible because free will itself is an incoherent concept. For Strawson, the incoherence lies in how a self can have free will if that self does not choose its own nature. Such a self's thoughts, decisions, and actions come from a source that the self had no role in choosing, and so to say that this self chooses freely is a contradiction.
Strawson points out that individuals do not have control over their genetic inheritance or their early experience, and as a result, he argues, individuals do not have control over anything subsequent to this inheritance and experience. Any feeling of freedom to choose or act or change oneself is just a feeling determined by heredity and previous experience, with heredity and early experience the basis of everything that follows.
In his 1994 essay "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility," Strawson contends that given this problem with the free will argument, no one can truly be held morally responsible for their actions. To assign praise or blame to individuals lacking free will may be necessary from a law and order standpoint, but from the point of view of real and ultimate justice, it makes no sense at all.
Join us for a discussion of Strawson's essay "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility." Reading the essay beforehand is strongly encouraged, although it is not required to participate in the discussion.
How to find us:We will be in the private room in the back on the left.