2006/01/23

Responsibility without freedom.

Having become fed up with previous attempts to reconcile free will with the laws of nature, I have come to the following idea. Instead of trying to preserve some notion of free will, or accepting that there is no "real" moral responsibility, why not attempt to rest moral responsibility on "rational choice"? Here, rational choice would be characterized without essential reference to the idea of some metaphysically significant free will as has been supposed to exist (unfortunately) through much of philosophy's history. We do not, after all, hold for example dogs morally responsible for certain of their actions, only humans. Human actions of some sort are the ones for which we may be held responsible. Instead of insisting that these are ones undertaken "freely" in addition to being rationally chosen, let us suppose that real moral responsibility hangs on rational choice whether or not there is some scientistic reduction of the process by which the choice was reached (and of course one can come up with examples of cases where un-"chosen" actions are held to be culbable due to their being violations of moral precepts, so this presents a hurdle for the view). I find that this project allows preservation of the general feeling that metaphysical free will is a humbug, while not ignoring the important research that is still possible with regard to free will and choice. That internal mechanisms of the soul or the will of God have been replaced by neuron activity does not itself "debunk" the existence either of choice or of morality, contra positivism.

One might suppose that an initial difficulty for many philosophers of morality, sc. Kantians, will have difficulty reconciling such a move even in outline with the ideal of (transcendental?) autonomy, or more weakly of "sponteneity", to be found in the sexless master's works.

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