Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Moral Responsibility and Free Will

Posted by Michael Dickens on September 24, 2009

What if we truly do not have free will? What does that mean? Does it mean that we are not responsible for our actions, since we are not in control of them?

There is flawed logic here already. We are still in control of our actions, even though we do not have free will. We make a rational decision to put one foot in front of the other. It is entirely a matter of choice. But not free choice.

The question of moral responsibility comes back to the roots of responsibility. My own definition of responsibility is this:

The entity that is responsible for some outcome is the one who was most aware that the outcome would occur and the one who was most able to change the outcome.

This definition in no way relies upon free will. In this sense, moral responsibility lies upon the most active agent and not just upon agents with free will. Therefore, moral responsibility can be applied to all rational agents, not just those that happen to have free will.

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One Response to “Moral Responsibility and Free Will”

  1. phynnboi said

    But if there’s no free will, then whoever is “most aware of” and “most able to change” the outcome isn’t responsible for being in that state, either, so pinning moral responsibility on them based on it seems as arbitrary as pinning it on them for “their” actions.

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