Thursday, April 19, 2012

[PHI 1000] Responsibility without freedom?

According to Galen Strawson, the novelist Ian McEwan wrote to him as follows:
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):
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
What do you make of this argument? Is it cogent?

1 comment:

  1. This argument is definitely a cogent argument. This is because this argument is a case where if the premises are true the presented conclusion can be true. All parents, if their children are raised by their parents, bear moral responsibility for whatever their child does. This is because they have been cared for and were brought up in the same views and points that the parents have. Premise two is also can be true because a lot of the times, the way we act are based upon genetic makeup and upbringing therefore these things influence our actions. However in the end, they are our actions and we were the ones that performed them. Lastly, the conclusion can be true because the actions that I make come from myself and therefore I have some sort of responsibility over them.
    - Mike Ryu


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