Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

Without Freedom it is Impossible to Make Moral Choice Discuss

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Kant, a soft determinist, said that in order to make a moral decision we must have freedom. Kant believed that the ability to make moral decisions lay within the existence of freedom; stating that if we are not free to make our own decisions those decisions could not be moral as we were never free to make that decision in the first place. Kant thought that a person could be blamed for an action if they could have acted differently; for example if a person’s family is held at gunpoint and they are forced to open a safe they cannot be blamed as they did not have a choice.

If we are to have free will we must have the ability to make a decision that is unhindered; Kant believed that we must have free will if we are to be help morally responsible for our actions, if God did not give us free will then our decisions cannot be considered immoral or moral as we would have had to act in the way we did. Thus we cannot be held responsible; a good moral action cannot be praised as you had no other option, whilst an immoral action cannot be punished as once again there was no free choice.

John Locke who was also a soft determinist as he believed that morality and the ability to make moral decisions developed throughout your lives. Locke believed that the mind was a tabula rosa, a blank slate that is shaped and filled by the person’s life experience and that ultimately creates a person’s morality. However the sensory data that creates this moral framework within the mind is already determined; therefore using Locke’s idea freedom is not required in order to make a moral decision it is the determined experiences you live through that create your morality and result in you making immoral or moral decisions.

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Another soft determinist was David Hume who believed in a limited form of free will, he ultimately believed that nature was in control of human destiny. That freedom was also subject-based, meaning that you are free to make a moral decision and free to follow through with that action. He went on to argue that determined events create human free will and that each individual is free to respond in their own way to those determined events; the morality of the choice the person makes is down to them.

Hume believed that nothing occurred by chance or luck but we do have the free will, even if limited, to make our own decisions A libertarian would state that human’s decisions and actions are strictly uncaused; that no choices we make are determined and that we are completely free to make our own choices, these can either be moral or immoral, thus we are completely responsible. Libertarianism is incompatible with determinism, this is because they believe determinism is incorrect as everyone is free to all act differently in the exact same event, not all of humans would act morally in such an event.

Kant would have been against Libertarianism because despite being a compatibilist Kant thought that some actions were determined. Others believe that it is not necessary to be required to accept responsibility for your actions thus there is no need to be free in order to make moral decisions. Hard determinism also covers the problem of free will and moral decision making; one of the most famous hard determinists is Clarence Darrow. Darrow was a defence lawyer who in the trial of Leob and Leopold used hard determinism to suggest that we are not free thus we cannot make moral decisions.

In the trial Darrow blamed their actions upon the way the two were brought up thus were predetermined to murder Robert Franks; their upbringing determined how they would make moral decisions in the future. This means that using Darrow’s idea Leob and Leopold did not have free will and thus could not make a moral choice; their predestination meant that they would only make an immoral decision. Ted Honderich was another hard determinist who approached the idea of free will using the physics as his base; using the Aristotelian idea that nothing occurs without a cause.

Honderich believed that events within the universe are determined and humans act in response to those events and are therefore not responsible for their actions. Using this belief one would argue that moral decisions cannot be made as there is no freedom to do so, everything is already determined beforehand. Saint Augustine was a religious determinist who believed that humanity required God’s help to do good; this is granted by God to humans, therefore God determines who will be saved and who will not. This is known as predestination; there irrelevance of our actions whether moral or immoral as God has already chosen those who shall be saved.

John Calvin argued that people have no free will in regard to moral decision making; stating that God makes his choice about who to save, therefore does not look at a person and recognise them as good. Calvin stated that people only do good because God made them that way and placed them in an environment that would only make them do good. Logically Calvin concluded that if we have no control over our actions due to being made to act in a certain way, we cannot be considered responsible for them, thus we cannot make a moral decision as the decision and way we act was already determined by God.

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