chapter  11
31 Pages


Most people agree that people are morally responsible only for the actions they carry out freely and deliberately – actions that are freely chosen. Determinism, however, states that there are laws of nature which govern everything which happens and that all our actions are the result of these scientific laws and every choice we make was determined by the situation immediately before it, and that situation was determined by the situation before it and so on as far back as you want to go. Freedom of choice is just an illusion and so personal responsibility is a meaningless concept, as are blame and punishment. This makes it difficult to make any sense of the idea that people are to be held morally and legally responsible only for actions carried out freely and deliberately. However, we do feel a sense of responsibility for what we have done even if we did not choose that action; for example, a driver who kills a child who ran out in front of their car would blame themselves for the death, even if it was not their fault and they could not have prevented it.