Responsibility without choice. A first-person approach

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Abstract:

Individuals are generally held to be morally and legally responsible only for actions carried out freely and deliberately, that is to say, for actions that result from our free choice. However, there is a quite widespread view that all of our actions are the result of the scientific laws that govern our physical bodies. If this should prove to be the case, then human choice would be an illusion, and therefore -- on the generally accepted principle just stated -- personal responsibility would be a meaningless concept and blame and punishment would be inappropriate responses to wicked or criminal acts. In this paper I shall argue that we need to disentangle ‘responsibility’ from ‘choice'. I shall also outline reasons for holding that responsibility is ultimately a first-person matter -- I am responsible if I feel responsible, irrespective of choice -- and I shall briefly consider some of the consequences of this approach.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Imprint Academic, PO Box 1, Thorverton EX5 5YX, UK.

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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