Friday, May 13, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 4

The argument from determinism holds that we are excused for our behavior on the basis that we were determined to act by some motive or inclination. In other words, we have a moral inability to do otherwise. If it’s true that moral inability excuses us, then the only way we can be morally accountable is if we are free from all influence of motives and inclinations. Liberty, then, would consist in indifference. The more we are under the influence of inclination, bias, motive, etc., the less liberty we have, and the less worthy we are of praise or blame. The less we are under the influence of inclinations, etc., the more liberty we have. So a person has the highest degree of liberty when he is totally indifferent.

Edwards argues that this is contrary to common sense, and that common sense tells us just the opposite. Virtue and vice consist in acting with good or evil intentions. Any act that comes out of total indifference can be worthy of neither praise nor blame.

If there are absolutely no antecedent conditions which determine the will, then any act of the will is a mere accident. It’s a spontaneous event that happens for no reason at all. Since accidents are spontaneous events, they cannot be regulated by law. Hence they cannot be subject to either praise or blame.

A choice without motive is a choice made for no reason at all. If the choice were made for some end, then the view of the end would be the motive, and the motive would be what determined the choice. But a soul that acts without motive or end seeks nothing, exerts no inclination, and desires nothing. It follows that it chooses nothing, and since there is no choice in the matter, there can be no virtue or vice.

Part 5


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