Friday, May 20, 2005

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.

The end.


At 5/20/2005 11:12 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

Did you see the special on 20/20 tonight (Friday)? The whole show was on the resurrection of Jesus.
I liked it.

At 5/21/2005 8:44 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Yeah. It wasn't as good as I had hoped, but it was alright.

At 5/21/2005 8:36 PM , Blogger Abdul-Halim V. said...


I think some of your discussion is interesting. But I think you are probably already assuming your conclusion as an assumption (which is fine but then it should allow you to make the "argument" more

I think it is possible to be a determinist in a philosophical sense but still have a theory of individual responsibility for legal or common every-day purposes.

For example, I could believe in determinism but still have a strong interest in keeping society safe from dangerous or anti-social individuals. So I could still want criminals punished for their crimes as a deterrent and I could still want to keep dangerous people in prison where they could do less harm. And in deciding what consequences the criminal justice system should attach to which behavior, I can reasonably say for example... that the person who the person who is a criminal due to a bad upbringing is less susceptible to rehabilitation and more dangerous to society than the person who is a criminal because a second person is holding a gun to their heads, for instance.

In other words, I can say that no one really has free will, but still distinguish between different kinds of unfree individuals for legal purposes.



At 5/22/2005 4:17 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Abdul-halim, all assumptions are assumed. That's what it means to be an assumption. :-)

I think Jonathan Edwards would agree with you for the most part, though he may use different words to express himself. He is a compatibalist. A compatibalist is somebody who thinks determinism is compatible with free will. But, of course, he's using the term "free will" differently than libertarians. For libertarians, free will means being able to act without any antecedent conditions and/or causal laws to determine the act. Compatibalists think our acts are determined by our strongest motivations, desire, inclinations, etc, but we have free will in the sense that we can do what we want. In other words, we are free precisely BECAUSE we act according to our own desires and motivations.

The whole point Edwards makes in his book is that not only is compatibalism consistent with moral accountability, but it's NECESSARY for moral accountability. Moreover, he argues that libertarian freedom is not only unnecessary for moral accountability, but it's actually inconsistent with it.

I agree with the distinction in kinds of freedom we might have for legal purposes. The differences you point out seem morally relevent to me, because what causes (or prevents) you from performing an act is relevent. If I'm motivated to injure somebody because of my own maliciousness, then I'm more guilty than if I'm motivated to injure somebody to save my own life. The purposes and intentions of our hearts are relevent, I think, and that is consistent with compatibalism.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home