God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, part 2
All of our choices are determined by the reasons we have for making them--our desires, dispositions, inclinations, motives, etc. But what about the desires themselves? Are they under the control of the will? Do we choose them? It seems not, because that would get us into an infinite regress. If all of our choices are determined by desires, and we choose our desires, then our choices for desires are determined by previous desires. But if we choose those desires, then those desires have desires that come before them. Back and back it goes. To make any choice at all, we'd have to make an infinite number of previous choices to lead up to it. But that's not possible. So if we are able to make choices at all, then they must ultimately originate in some desire that we did not choose.
Ultimately, then, the desires that determine our choices are not under the control of the will. That raises another question. If our choices are ultimately determined by things that are not under the control of the will, then how can we be morally responsible?
Last year, a guy I knew made an argument against morality from determinism. He argued that ultimately all of our choices are determined by things not under the control of the will--our genes, our environment, our upbringing, etc. Since our will is not free but determined, he argued, we cannot be morally responsible.
His argument depended on the notion that "ought" implies "can." If I have a moral obligation to do something, then I must be able to do it. If I'm not able to do it, then I cannot have an obligation to do it. Since I'm not able to choose the desires that determine my choices, then I'm not able to choose other than what I choose. I can only choose otherwise if I am enclined to choose otherwise. But it is a contradiction to suppose that I could be enclined to choose what I am not enclined to choose.
This intuition that "ought" implies "can" seems to be universally recognized. I find that curious in light of people who don't believe in morality. Even people who think morality is an illusion, a convention, or non-existent seem to know beyond doubt that inability is a legitimate moral justification for failure to comply. That's one reason I think morality is not only universal, but also universally known. Even the strictest empiricists subscribe to the notion that "ought" implies "can," though they can give no empirical proof for it. Anyway, that's another subject.
In my response, I argued that not only is compatibalism consistent with moral responsibility, but that it is necessary for moral responsibility. Libertarian free will, which he seemed to suppose was necessary for moral responsibility, turns out to be inconsistent with moral responsibility. I gave my arguments in nine posts, so I don't really want to repeat them all hear. You can do one of three things. You can either assume I'm right for the sake of argument, take my word for it, or go read those posts. They are on parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine of "An argument against morality from determinism."
to be continued...