I see no necessary disjunction between having no free will (those arguments seem watertight) and assuming moral responsibility for myself. The point is ownership. I own my past, my beginnings, my perceptions. And just as I will make myself responsible if my dog or child bites someone, or my car rolls backwards down a hill and causes damage, so I take on full accountability for the little ship of my being, even if I do not have control of its course. It is this sense of being the possessor of a consciousness that makes us feel responsible for it.McEwan's remarks can be construed as an argument by analogy (parent : child's actions :: moral agent : his/her actions):
- As a parent, I bear some moral responsibility for what my child does, even though I don't have full control over what s/he does, because s/he is my child.
- As a moral agent, I don't have full control over my actions (since they result from my genetic makeup and upbringing, which are ultimately beyond my control), but they are my actions.
- Therefore, I bear some moral responsibility for what I do, even though I don't have full control over my actions, because they are my actions.