If you are a strict determinist, what is your stance on personal responsibility?

There are some lively discussions on determinism (every effect has a cause and every cause an effect - or something like that) that end up with the idea that 'free will' is an illusion.

Not to get to far into it here (because we will - oh, we will) but, basically, since every event (action) that occurs is simply the result of a previous event, at some level, everything is predetermined by what happened before. And, it follows that, on an absolute level, everything is absolutely predetermined. Therefore, even our thoughts and choices are the result of some precursory string of cause and effect. Therefore, we have no real free will.

So, given that line of thinking, does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?


In an effort to reframe this disussion, make continuing discussion more digestible (smaller chunks), and help everyone who wishes to continue to take another stab at organizing the various poistions in their minds (so to speak, I am closing this discussion - in one hour. It is now approximately 10 am est U.S.) At 11 I will close the discussion and link to the new one I have started if that works.
I am now closing this discussion - go to http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/the-illusion-of-responsibi... for a new take.

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Hey - my daughter sings all the time - luckily very beautifully *rave* - and has taken to singing from that book.

I love the way that, for the most part, the songs turn the tragic cheery and proclaim that we are all screwed up, if only a little bit, and its good to acknowledge that.
flame that lights a fire under your ass
Yes - the illusion of nonsense is a well tended garden.
Does '>' mean 'greater than' or 'leads to'?

And what do you mean by 'the end'. In determinism the end is in the beginning and in existentialism the end is non-existent.
That's okay - most of the time I'm quite full of facete!
um... ok... care to discuss why?

because it makes you feel better or because its logically consistent? i can poke a few holes in existentialism that my philosophy prof siad even Satre squirmed at.

though "The End" is always an acceptable conclusion for a philosopher of course =P
If ya don't need a reason ya dont need a reason.
(I don't believe in logical fallacies! I don't believe in logical fallacies!)

;D
I don't believe in determinism. If determinism is true, then everything is determined, and there is no personal responsibility. Nobody is responsible for anything. Whatever you do is chosen not by you but is chosen a long time ago. Nothing matters. Nobody matters. Nobody cares. Nobody needs to care for anything.
I don't believe in determinism. If determinism is true, then everything is determined, and there is no personal responsibility. Nobody is responsible for anything. Whatever you do is chosen not by you but is chosen a long time ago. Nothing matters. Nobody matters. Nobody cares. Nobody needs to care for anything.

You don't understand determinism.

Whatever you do is chosen not by you but is chosen a long time ago.


This is fatalism.

Nothing matters.

What matters and what doesn't is subjective. In describing strict determinism it could be said that everything matters- every action and inaction affecting the end result.

Nobody matters.

See point above. Our importance as individuals is subjective. We're important from our perspective. Maybe not so much so for the universe at large. Yet, the universe is different, albeit in a nearly imperceptible way, for you having inhabited it. However, from the human perspective, the only one from which we can be expected to view reality, we affect one another and the lifeforms that we share the earth with by ours action and inaction. This is determinism at work. Everyone matters.

Nobody cares.

Simply not true. What we care about and to what degree is unique from individual to individual. There are purely naturalistic causes for these distinctions.

Nobody needs to care for anything.

Determinism assigns no overarching purpose to the universe. We care, as described above, not because we're meant to, rather because we do. What we care about and to what degree is shaped by our genetics and experience- all deterministic causes. There is no human behavior that arises on its own.
Ok. So, you are not talking about determinism in the sense that everything is determined.
Rather, you are talking about determinism in the sense that certain things about us are determined such as genetics. This is going to lead us to arguments about nature vs nurture in psychology and biology and compatibilism in the philosophy. This is getting old. I've been there.
no. not quite right. these "certain things" are everything.

why do you need purpose? why do you need to be this force of quasi-divine inspiration with a reason to be here? why can't you simply be here and enjoy what you have? the need for meaning is what drives people to theism.

does the blade of grass have meaning? sure... its place is to be eaten... but what about cows? what about you? if a lion eats you is your purpose to be eaten?

you can't escape it. you can run circles around the idea of purpose and choice and what you are owed. none of it makes sense though.

Just study psychology. everything that you do or think is a result of your genetics and everything in your environment that has taught you to think that way so far. if not for determinism, however loose you interpret it, there would be no loving reason to punish your child. In a world of pure free will it would only be revenge.

You punish your child to make sure to lure them away from the deviant behavior. Every behavior after that punishment is shaped by it. Will they try to not get caught? to decide its not worth it? to discipline their own kids the same way because it worked?

wow... starts to sound like determinism doesnt it?

Nope. don't need the nature/nurture debate. both nature AND nurture are out of your control.
genetics are obvious. let's move on.
A baby is a clean slate. It is pure genetics w/ no experiences. At its young age, it is impossible for it to decide anything for itself, so its parents decide for it for a year or two or whatever. By the time it is able to decide things, its experiences have been so burned in by its guardians that everything from then on is a domino effect.


You're going to need to define choice too... do dogs have choice? does grass? do sloths or ants? What is a choice? more than that, what is a pure choice free of predetermined factors? Can you name one? Can you define one? Can you fathom one and gain proof for it?

What could this "choice" thing possibly be?
regardless of our agreement/disagreement about the larger issue:
A baby is a clean slate. It is pure genetics w/ no experiences. At its young age, it is impossible for it to decide anything for itself, so its parents decide for it for a year or two or whatever. By the time it is able to decide things, its experiences have been so burned in by its guardians that everything from then on is a domino effect.

You obviously haven't spent concentrated time around babies. Taking care of them; playing with them; watching them; teaching them; disagreeing with them; holding them; trying to hold them when they don't want to be held; feeding them; talking to them; talking with them even when they don't have words; trying to feed them; teaching them to sign before they can speak; watching them struggle to walk, to talk, to start the DVD player.

The blank slate theory of child development has been out of fashion for decades. If you're still being taught that, you should examine your teacher's credentials.

Having raised 2 kids of our own, help raise 3 foster kids, and now having grandkids ages (just) 5, 3 and 1 in the house all the time is only anecdotal, I know. But 8 data points that don't match your neat and tidy description leaves me no choice but to strongly disagree.
hm, point taken. EXTREMELY poor choice of words because I forgot about the theory. thank you.

the challenge still stands though... what is a choice? until a definition with proof comes up im afraid it is an unprovable hypothesis. Worth investigating? sure, but i have yet to see any good proof of a good theory of choice. If I accepted free will on such sloppy ground I might as well go and believe in god.

anyway, it makes sense to me that society would function better without hte assumption of free will. less hate, more planning for the future. there's evidence for determinism, there isn't evidence for free will... arguably the world would be better without the assumption (a point of debate of course). shouldn't that be enough for an atheist to accept unless for some reason they misrepresent determinism as grim or gloomy (from their perspective perhaps but it certainly doesn't need to be)?

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