But if determinism is true, then on any occasion when I do what is wrong, it isn't possible for me to refrain from doing wrong. And if it isn't possible for me to refrain from doing wrong, then I can't really be responsible for that wrong-doing—not in the relevant sense anyway. We do sometimes say that arterial plaque is responsible for many heart attacks, but that's not the relevant sense of "responsibility." The relevant sense involves being properly subject to disapprobation, moral criticism, and even punishment; no one would consider criticizing or punishing a deposit of plaque. By contrast, if I knowingly do what is wrong, I am indeed properly subject to disapproval and blame. But I am not properly blamed for doing what it was not within my power not to do.Read it all.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Plantinga on free will: it's real
Noted Protestant philosopher Alvin Plantinga takes on New Atheists and Old Calvinists who deny the existence of free will: Bait and Switch. (Hat tip to The Pittsford Perennialist.) Plantinga concludes his essay with a key observation, namely that both the materialist and Calvinist approaches destroy any notion of human responsibility, merit or blame. Virtue and vice become not habits of character but mere descriptions of unchosen human action: