Brandon on that very serious blog, Siris (a spelling mistake I made long long ago) offered this interesting post some time ago. I had linked it with the intent of writing a little later, and later finally has arrive. That post as well, links back to this one originally, which expands the argument posed by Brandon a little and (twice) offers that quantum mechanics has not had anything to say about determinism. I think that’s wrong, and the paper by one of my favorite mathematicians (Conway) which I blogged a bit about demonstrates the case that Physics offers regarding determinism. But … to the main point, I think this misses an essential point which might be termed the divide between childhood and adulthood. 

Strawson’s argument in brief attempts is:

(a) It’s undeniable that the way you are initially is a result of your genetic inheritance and early experience.

(b) It’s undeniable that these are things for which you can’t be held to be in any way responsible (morally or otherwise).

(c) But you can’t at any later stage of life hope to acquire true or ultimate moral responsibility for the way you are by trying to change the way you already are as a result of genetic inheritance and previous experience.

(d) Why not? Because both the particular ways in which you try to change yourself, and the amount of success you have when trying to change yourself, will be determined by how you already are as a result of your genetic inheritance and previous experience.

(e) And any further changes that you may become able to bring about after you have brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial changes, by your genetic inheritance and previous experience.

I offer the following rejoinder, without denying the premise or argument the conclusion is wrong. That is to say it is only true if you are a child and choose to remain a child. 

Adulthood comes when we accept the cards we are dealt as belonging to ourself and assuming that responsibility for those cards. One stakes the claim that your actions are in fact yours, for better or worse. Fate, the devil (made me do it, upbringing or genetics …. all fall into the same bin. Your words and actions are yours. By accepting that as a premise you put away childish ways. 

Filed under: Ethics & MoralityMark O.

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