Argument against morality from determinism, part 9
Edwards argues that it is agreeable to the common notions people have about morality, praise, and blame, that moral necessity is consistent with praise and blame. The common meaning of faultiness is simply a person having his heart wrong and doing wrong from his heart. Most people don’t form their concept of blameworthiness or praiseworthiness from an in depth study of metaphysics and philosophical subtleties. If they did, then the majority of us would never have any notion of moral praise or blame. These are some of the first notions children have. They form their notion of desert from experience and a natural sense of right and wrong which we call conscience.
Common people and children think any faulty deed is a person’s own act, and it’s the person’s own act if it was done by choice. They have no notion that an action begins accidentally without cause or reason, because that goes against the common sense notion that nothing begins to be without a cause or reason.
Everybody thinks a faulty or praiseworthy deed is done out of liberty, but liberty consists in doing what you please, not in doing in a state of indifference with no preference at all. The common notion is that when a person proceeds with the fullest inclination, he does so with the greatest freedom.
If common sense dictated that praise and blame are inconsistent with moral necessity, then the closer we are to necessity because of a strong propensity or inclination, the less worthy we are of praise or blame. Common sense would dictate that the stronger you desire to do something, the less commendable or blamable you are for doing it.
But just the reverse is true. The stronger the love of virtue and inclination to do good, the more commendable. The stronger the malice, the more blamable the acts are that come from that malice.
If mankind’s common notion of a blameworthy act is an act not determined by any antecedent bias or motive, then the greater hand these motives have in determining the acts, the less blameworthy, and the less hand, the more blameworthy. But people commonly think the more influence a motive has in determining an act, the more blameworthy.