Obstacles to Ethics

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Obstacle to Ethics: Determinism

DETERMINISM: Our choices and actions are the result of pre-existing conditions. We do not have free will or the capacity to choose between alternatives. We are not responsible for our actions, cannot be blamed or praised for them, because we cannot act "against" or contrary to the forces or pre-existing conditions that compel us (psychological, social, economic, environmental, genetic). Since we could not have done otherwise, it is pointless to grant rewards or impose punishments. SCIENTIFIC DETERMINISM: The notion that every event in nature, including human choice and action, is the result of and can be explained in terms of antecedent or pre-existing causes or conditions. Scientific determinism includes both: - ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS, or forces outside of individual persons, such as climate (hot or cold, rainy or dry, etc.), culture (custom and language), history, and technology AND - PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS, inner forces or conditions operating within the person's own "psyche" (unconscious or subconscious drives - Freud), behavior ("operant conditioning" or behaviorism - Skinner), or genes. FREE WILL: This is the human capacity to think or imagine alternatives and choose between them without compulsion from inner psychological forces or outer natural, social, and economic factors. Free will is the capacity to act on our own and "against“conditions. Free will should be distinguished from FREEDOM, which is simply the absence of things getting in the way of what we are compelled to want and do. The prisoner loses his "physical freedom" when he or she is imprisoned. LIBERTARIANISM: This is the view that our choices are free, and that we can control our lives. It maintains that, although people do not always control their lives, they are at least capable of doing so. We are responsible for our actions, because we could have chosen or acted otherwise. According to this view, we are AUTONOMOUS; that is, we are self-ruling or...
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