Metaphysical Finale (Part 1 of 4)
Over the next day or two I will be discussing the following topics:
Formulating and Explaining: Determinism, Hard Determinism, Soft Determinism, Indeterminism, Volitional Indeterminism, The Theory of Agency, Fatalism, Theism, and Atheism.
Presenting, Explaining, and Evaluating: An Argument Against Moral Responsibility, The Kid Patriot Argument Against Soft Determinism, The Ernest Patriot Argument Against Simple Indeterminism, The Vera Patriot Argument Against Volitional Indeterminism, What I take to be the best argument against The Theory of Agency, The Argument for Fatalism, What I take to be the best argument for Theism, and What I take to be the best argument for Atheism.
Disclaimer: For those of you that are here for entertainment, than I’d say you are in for a good couple of days. However if you are one of those students currently taking metaphysics with Ned Markosian that you might as well just turn around, he dislikes my explanations a great deal. Whereas the average visitor here understands this stuff, I have quite a few “makes no sense” tags in the exam. At any rate that’s the disclaimer since I know people Google before exams.
So lets get this part started:
Determinism: Every event that occurs is completely determined by previous conditions.
It’s essentially explained just by writing the line. Completely determined essentially means that the laws of nature require that the action carry out in the manner that it does. The common theme here will be abusing the concept of natural law.
The Argument Against Moral Responsibility
(1) Every event that occurs is completely determined by previous conditions.
(2) if (1), then every action that transpires is completely determined before the birth of the agent.
(3) If every action is determined by events before its agent then people do not act freely.
(4) If people do not act freely then people are not morally responsible.
(5) People are never morally responsible for their actions.
The idea for premise one is that every event is completely determined by the series of events that lead to its activation. If you flip a coin the action of your finger would be the previous event beginning the flipping of the coin, your decision to flip the coin was the signal that told your finger to flip (ideally) and a series of events leading to that thought…so on and so forth. Premise two says that if everything is indeed decided by events before it then obviously the series of events leading up to your activities began before you existed. Another very reasonable assumption. The third premise states that if every action has already been determined by a series of events going before you were even alive then you do not act freely. Again reasonable given the argument. Finally the fourth premise states that if people do not act freely then they are not morally responsible.
Well once we make our way past that huge layer of text it pays to mention that indeed that is a valid statement, if premises are true then indeed the conclusion is true as well. However I would not go as far as to say that it is sound. The laws of nature, gravity, space, and time as well as others I am not thinking about are indeed outside of the control of humans (at least for now). However it is quite a bold jump to say that something like gravity has the same effect on thoughts and decisions as it does on a coin flip.
Reflexive actions are indeed outside of the realm of responsibility of a person. I’m pretty sure all reflexive actions from below the neck happen (relatively) long before a signal reaches the brain. However actions that are decided upon are hardly decided before the agent is born. I would never argue that you are in full control of the events transpiring around you, but you are (to a great degree) able to decide how you respond to them. It is that ability to choose your response that is why people are morally responsible. Natural laws play little or no part in the thoughts and decisions of any living organism. That is the primary difference between a living organism and a non-living thing (like wind). Wind is entirely at the whim of natural forces, your thoughts are not.
Once my headache breaks (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll have a larger chunk of this done.