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livestrong's avatar

Is there a connection between determinism and moral responsibility?

Asked by livestrong (213points) October 26th, 2010

What weight should we give to religious belief in trying to determine the dispute over determinism and moral responsibility?

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12 Answers

Trillian's avatar

Which religious belief? Which morals? Which responsibility?

livestrong's avatar

Belief in God…..and moral responsibility considering everything. Hard determinist believe that we have no free will and that everything has a causal chain so we should not get punished or be held morally responsible for anything since we have no free will.

Trillian's avatar

You are not clear enough. Many religions believe in God. They are frequently at variance with each other. Different morals apply to different religions and cultures. You must first define the parameters of your dispute before one can take up a position relative to it.

the100thmonkey's avatar

What weight should we give to religious belief in attempting to determine whether we are morally responsible or whether we are determined?

None, in my opinion; it has no bearing on the subject. Indeed, it adds an extra and unnecessary layer of complexity to an already complex area by introducing further ontological and epistemological considerations of determinism Vs. free will and moral responsibility.

By introducing indemonstrable or even unreasonable hypotheses and propositions into the question, it becomes impossible to answer.

Cruiser's avatar

IMO you should give very little weight. Religion serves a purpose in providing a “moral compass” for those who can’t think for themselves and decide what is right of what is wrong. But to assign determinism to a moral responsibility because a God said so, is moral slavery and one of the reasons I am no longer a believer.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

The tree is going to fall on you.
Gravity determines this.
Are you going to step out of the way??
We have free will.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Determinism arguably does nullify moral responsibility, but that point is extremely limited in application. Moral responsibility is a construct that has been proven throughout time to be a way to give the best outcome for all parties involved in any given situation. Determinism is for the most part unfalsifiable, so its implications in practice are unclear.

I don’t think religious ideologies should be given any weight in this matter, since they are generally built on primitive traditions rather than reason or research.

@lucillelucillelucille That depends on how depressed you are, the way in which environmental factors have modified your reaction time, and whether your senses are able to detect the falling tree. Only a healthy, fully able and cognizant person will be certain to jump out the way.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – I would argue (discussions of the falsifiability of determinism aside) that concepts such as moral responsibility are unverifiable. Indeed, it is difficult – if not impossible – to define exactly what ‘moral responsibility’ actually is.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@the100thmonkey I think there is a very good reason for that, namely that people have typically thought that morality is a personal thing that cannot be debated or necessarily improved. Within our current framework of how we think about morality, you are probably right. However I think we need a shift in the way we think about it, so we can debate and potentially improve the moral intelligence of the average person. To date we have relied on the shifting perceptions of the population, but I think it is time people regarded morality as a legitimate research topic, so that a person may be regarded as an expert in morality, and another morally ignorant.

mammal's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh morality or ethics has been a legitimate research topic and preoccupation of philosophy for millennia, you make it sound like humanity has been ducking the issue.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mammal That is true, but only a select group of people ever engage in it. For example, there is still a substantial proportion of the population that believes state-sanctioned murder of criminals is acceptable. People debate the issue, but the people that matter never seem to enter into it. Certain governments around the world duck the issue by using religion as an excuse, or they just ignore it so they can keep on killing.

satyagraha's avatar

As for your first question, it seems almost undeniable that moral responsibility and determinism are mutually exclusive. However, it’s important to remember that moral responsibility in the universal sense doesn’t necessarily need to correspond to the ways in which we judge people to be morally responsible. Meaning, even if determinism is true, we can continue to hold people morally responsible, and probably should, since it’s a very good crowd-control technique. (people are much more likely to engage in socially constructive actions if they believe they are held morally responsible, while they would probably on the whole engage in more socially destructive if they were not held morally responsible.)
As for your second question, it seems like at the personal level religion is as good a judge as any. (Excepting of course, the truth, which we’re not likely to know in this case.) However at the social level I think religion probably isn’t the best solution given how many toes you’re liable to step on based on which religion you choose.

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