In this essay I aim to assess whether or not we are to make ethical decisions or if we have are predetermined and so therefore are not morally responsible for our actions.
Hard Determinism states that everything in the universe, including our actions and choices, are predetermined, so meaning that everything that happens and has happened in our lives has already been chosen. With our increasing ability from subjects such as psychology, to explain human feelings and emotions, people have grown to believe that we, like everything else in the world, act in accordance laws. Hard determinism says that we are all a product of our genes, upbringing and surroundings. Hard determinism says that we are all a product of our genes, upbringing and surroundings.
It is created from these things, so may be our actions and decisions. Locke gave the example of a man who wakes up in a room that, unknown to him, is locked from the outside. He chooses to stay in the room, believing he has chosen freely. In reality, he has no option. However, his ignorance of this gives him an illusion of freedom, which supports the idea that we believe that we are free to make choices but we are already predetermined, suggesting that we are not free to make ethical decisions as we are not the ones to make a choice. If determinism is true, then not only are we wrong for punishing people who murder or rape, but we are wrong for praising those who do ‘good’ things such as giving to charities. If no one deserves punishment then equally no one should be deserving of praise, because we do not choose to be good, or bad, it is predetermined through our genes and our upbringing whether we will be a good person or not. If this is true we must question our whole ethics as a world. Libertarians argue that determinists straight forward view of the world is wrong, and they are mistaken.
Libertarians believe in universal causation and that it can be applied to the world, but they do not accept the view that human choice is affected. So if we are free to make a choice, we must assume that too we are morally responsible. They do not believe that we are predetermined or that our lives have been planned out by some higher power, but that we are free, and so can make free ethical choices. Libertarians accept that things may have an influence upon a decision as every decision will have a different outcome or consequence but we are still free to make a decision, we have a mind to think about decisions, and the choices that we have. Did we not have a choice, then the idea of a mind and options would be meaningless and pointless.
For example, a kleptomaniac may be inclined to steal, but they have a free choice in whether or not they choose to do so, they can choose to be influenced or not. Peter van inwaged uses the analogy of choosing which branch to go down when travelling a long a road. Libratarianism recognises that people experience making decisions; they experience freedom and have control over decisions in their life. Evidence of this is our society which is based on people having responsibility for their actions, for example, in law, a person can punished for a decision which they have made . We analyse our actions and ask if we did the right thing after acting – we could only do that if we had a choice. Heisenberg is found in modern physics and puts forward an uncertainty principle.
The Uncertainty Principle states that we cannot know the location of particles in space, the same way events can be uncaused and human decisions can be uncaused. This implies that actions are random and it would be silly to suggest that a person was responsible for a random act. Libertarians would argue against determinists, saying if all of our life was predetermined then how can we be held responsible and punished for our actions? Meaning that our entire law and punishment system would be wrong as we would not be responsibly of our actions, merely guilty of being the pawn of somebody elses decisions.
A soft determinist would say, though determinism is true it does not rule out freedom it says we are determined and are nonetheless still free. According to a soft determinist, when the individual is the cause of his or her actions, he or she is still said to act freely. According to this we can do what we want do without influences both external and those to do with genetics, and character. It says that some of our actions are determined but that we are really morally responsible for our actions. For example there is a difference between Ghandi choosing to fast, and a man being locked up without food.
In both cases, the actions are determined, and the men could not do otherwise. However, what determines Ghandi’s actions is internal, where as the man locked up has been externally caused to be without food. They would draw a distinction between actions caused or determined by our personalities, free actions and actions with external causes where we are pushed into a decision. Kant believed that in order to be moral we must be free. He believed that determinism applied to everything which was the object of knowledge, but not to the acts of the will. When we act we always think of ourselves as free. Kant says that freedom is a postulate of practical reason. It can be viewed that because some things can be proved to have been caused because of science, then we ourselves must have been cause.Soft determinism may be seen as the view that determinism is compatible with whatever sort of freedom is necessary for moral responsibility, when applied to science, such as physics, some events are not determined or random meaning that science cannot completely explain our world.
In conclusion i think that we are free to make ethical decisions because although we can be swayed by other influences such as culture, family or friends. We have the decision to choose what we like. Did we not have a choice, there would be no options, and we would have no need for a mind. A person that has a gene which makes them likely to steal still has a choice, they may be inclined to do so but have the choice whether or not too. Therefore i believe we are free to make ethical decisions.