Predestination, Moral Choices and Punishment

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Unless we assume that everyone is free to make moral choices, we have no right to punish criminals. - discuss.

Predestination is a stance that some theologians may take. It essentially means that God has predermined all our behaviour. This may be demonstrated through the notion of him being omniscient (all knowing) and so therefore if God knows the decsions we are going to make then therefore God has determined our behaviour another argument is that if God has created all of the universe and everything in it then it should follow that he made the DNA of all individuals and also everyones environment, therefore meaning it is logical to assume everyone's behaviour must be determined through God as he controls both our nature and our nuture. An additional point to make is that if people have a certain genetic predisposition to demonstrate a certian type of behaviour then they may also seek out enviornments that are similar, for example someone with more testosterone may be more aggressive and may seek out more aggressive situations, this would in turn suggest that people are again determined by their biology. A typical thinker to use may be John Calvin, he believed that there are two types of people in this world the elect and the damned. The elect would be predetermined to go to heaven whilst the damed are chosen to go to hell. He argued that noone knows who belongs in either group and that it doesnt matter what we do in this life because God had already chosen everyones fate. Boethius may argue against this and state that God exists out of time and space. An argument to support this may be Plato's theory of opposites, he argued that to be aware of light we must have knowledge of dark, i.e everything has an opposite and this is what makes us aware of the other. We are coningent beings and so for something to create us it must be the opposite because a contingent being is not capable of creating itself. This implies a necesary being, one of which is opposite and must exist external to time, as contingent beings exist within time. Boethius believed also that God must be outside of time and space and although he has knowledge of Tyrone Dobbs from Corrination street being innocent it is Tyrone's action that has lead to God's foreknowledge and therefore meaning Tyrone's behaviour is free, God is just aware of the situation not in control of it. This type of argument is strong because it allows people to be held responsible for their actions and therefore allows people to be punished, however it may seem restricting in certain situations such as a murderer who has mental health issues and has been brought up in an aggressive environment may not be totally responsible for their actions and if God has made the environment and our biology then it would appear that this type of individual would not be responsible for their behaviour and therefore arguably we do not have the right to punish them. John Locke's famous analogy of the locked room in which a man is trapped thinking he is free in his room because he could decorate the room despite not actually being able to have the choice of leaving or even being put in the room in the first place. This anaology represents Locke's general view of humans choice, and this is that potentially we feel like free agents because we appear to be able to make our own choices however in reality we are dertermined. This stance is known as hard determinsm, where our free will appears to be an illusion and that our behaviour is determined by previous events. Stephen Pinker may object to this and argue that although we may be determined to some extent by behaviours that have been evolutionised through the processes of natural selection such as aggression, we are able to make the choice not to act on that aggression, i.e. Pinker takes a soft determinist stance, which would argue that hard determinsim goes too far to say we have no choice in behaviour. Pinker and Locke then may have different views on...
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