Do Deep Self Views Provide an Adequate Account of Free Will and Moral Responsibility?

Topics: Free will, Determinism, Libertarianism Pages: 11 (4227 words) Published: September 30, 2005
Do "Deep Self Views" provide an adequate conception of free will and moral responsibility?

Incompatibilists claim that causal determinism and human free will are mutually exclusive. If determinism obtains, then every event is inevitable. Incompatibilists conclude that all human actions are unavoidable and therefore there is no free will or moral responsibility. Compatibilists deny that there is a conflict between determinism and free will. Intuitively, is seems sound to suppose that alternate possibilities are necessary for free will and moral responsibility. If a person "could not have done otherwise" then surely he cannot be free or morally responsible. Compatibilists argue against this incompatibilist intuition. It is litigious as to whether they succeed, though this is not the focus of this paper. Compatibilists must also provide the debate with an adequate alternate account of free will and moral responsibility that is not threatened by determinism. Traditional compatibilist arguments of philosophers like Hobbes fail to present a sufficient testimony of free will. The majority of the newly developed compatibilist accounts of free will and moral responsibility are either based upon theories of "hierarchical motivation", as pioneered by Harry Frankfurt, or written in opposition to them. ‘According to hierarchical theorists like Frankfurt, classical compatibilism is deficient because it gives us only a theory of freedom of action (being able to do what we will), but not a theory of freedom of will (being able to will what we will, so to speak).' Wolf refers to the account of Frankfurt and similar compatibilist arguments as "Deep Self Views" because they assert that a person has free will when he is acting from his deep or true self. The distinction between the various brands of Deep Self Views is how each philosopher chooses to define a person's true self. This paper will demonstrate the failure of Deep Self Views to provide an adequate account of free will and moral responsibility; not only do they encounter numerous objections to the practical application of the theories, but they fail to placate the suspicions people have about the dichotomy between moral responsibility and determinism. In order to establish these deficiencies it is necessary to illustrate the consistent limitations of several variations of the Deep Self theme. Although it is clear that Deep Self Views are an improvement for compatibilist theories of free will, they are ultimately unsuccessful.

Although Frankfurt never explicitly wrote from the compatibilist perspective, his model of free will provided the foundations for many who do. He aimed to create a conception of free will that would be ‘neutral with regard to the problem of determinism.' In his seminal paper "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" Frankfurt highlights the distinction between freedom of action and freedom of will. Crucially, to be free an agent must have the ability to be self-reflective. A creature who lacks this ability is a "wanton". A wanton has no interest in which of his desires are effective in prompting him to act. Whilst a wanton may rationalize between different inclinations, he lacks the capability to truly reflect upon them. A "person", the opposite of a wanton, has the ability to be evaluative about his desires. The division is clear: ‘when a person acts, the desire by which he is motivated is either the will he wants or the will he wants to be without. When a wanton acts, it is neither.'

Frankfurt illustrates a distinction between first-order and second-order desires. First-order desires are basic urges to act in a certain way or to have a particular commodity. These are experienced by persons and wantons alike. Second-order volitions are a person's reflections on the desires that motivate him to act, and are elemental in being a person in Frankfurt's terms. For example, let us suppose that Anuj is...

Bibliography: R. Kane, Free Will, 2002, Blackwell, United Kingdom
A. Mele, Autonomous Agents, 1995, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Pgs. 54-61
Richard Double, The Non-Reality of Free Will, 1991, Oxford University Press, Oxford
B.F. Skinner, "Walden Two: Freedom and the Behavioural Sciences", reprinted in Free Will by R. Kane, Blackwell, United Kingdom, 2002
H. Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person", 1971, reprinted in Free Will by R. Kane, 2002, Blackwell, United Kingdom
S. Wolf, "Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility", reprinted in Free Will by R. Kane, 2002, Blackwell, United Kingdom
I. Haji, "Compatibilist Views of Freedom and Responsibility" reprinted in R.Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2002, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Pg. 214
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Free Will and Moral Responsibility Essay
  • Essay about Mystery of Free Will and Moral Responsibility
  • Moral responsibility Essay
  • Self and Moral Responsibility Essay
  • Moral Responsibility Essay
  • people are not free to make moral decisions Essay
  • Essay about determinism and moral responsibility

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free