If you are a strict determinist, what is your stance on personal responsibility?

There are some lively discussions on determinism (every effect has a cause and every cause an effect - or something like that) that end up with the idea that 'free will' is an illusion.

Not to get to far into it here (because we will - oh, we will) but, basically, since every event (action) that occurs is simply the result of a previous event, at some level, everything is predetermined by what happened before. And, it follows that, on an absolute level, everything is absolutely predetermined. Therefore, even our thoughts and choices are the result of some precursory string of cause and effect. Therefore, we have no real free will.

So, given that line of thinking, does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?


In an effort to reframe this disussion, make continuing discussion more digestible (smaller chunks), and help everyone who wishes to continue to take another stab at organizing the various poistions in their minds (so to speak, I am closing this discussion - in one hour. It is now approximately 10 am est U.S.) At 11 I will close the discussion and link to the new one I have started if that works.
I am now closing this discussion - go to http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/the-illusion-of-responsibi... for a new take.

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Free Will Is An Illusion.

Now. I said it. On to the discussion.

does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?

I don't think strict determinists believe this any more than Christians are eager to meet their creator.
So - strict determinists can do anything they want because they can't do anything they want? What? ('tis a puzzlement) - silliness, sorry

Or did I misunderstand - are you saying they don't believe they are exempt from personal responsibility or they don't believe they HAVE any personal responsibility?
they don't believe they are exempt from personal responsibility

This one. Sorry for being unclear :(
But why? They can't help what they do. Free will is an illusion, right? So isn't personal responsibility a conceit?
They can't help what they do.

That's what they say, but you're not bound to believe them.

Free will is an illusion, right?

That's what I wrote initially, in a (probably futile) attempt to prevent further derailments of the same kind (and, at the same time, to prove you right - "because we will - oh, we will"), but you're not bound to believe it :P

(Truth is I refuse to have a definitive opinion on this question as long as I don't understand what 'free will' exactly means in this sentence.)
"So, given that line of thinking, does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?"


Yes,it follows. BUT we 'feel' as if we do,and human society tends to be based on the assumption of free will and personal responsibility. To the extent that people who feel and ACT differnetly are considered mentally unbalanced.

BUT, if there is no such thing as free will (my intellectual position,not my emotional position) my behaviour and the responses others are predetermined and beyond our control. That's called fatalism,the logical extension of hard determinism.I think nihilism also fits in there somewhere.

Determinism is the antithesis of the Abrahamic religions, which emphasise personal responsibility,meaning and purpose.
I just realized that determinism is similar to a belief in fate or destiny - minus the directing hand of some deity. Nevertheless, I guess if you murder someone, it wasn't really your choice and, whether or not you get away with it is, also, already in the cards (so to speak.)

BTW - I disagree that Abrahamic religions necessarily emphasize personal responsibilty - at least on some level where certain Christians are concerned. Some hold that you are forgiven no matter what you have done if Jesus is your personal savior while, regardless of stellar behavior, all atheists rot in hell. And Catholics just have to apologize right before they die and their good (but they have to mean it - so maybe that is a form of accountability.)

I think I will blog on my take that, in fact, religion often results in people abdicating responsibility, offers people no more 'purpose' than a hammer, and voids all 'meaning' in their life.
you misunderstand. it's not fate because events haven't happened yet. your discussion with me now determines the future. If anything, determinism is a preventative measure against making predictions without the benefit of viewing the factors going into it yet...

If someone murders, no it's not their fault up to that point, but society has dictated it's view of appropriate treatment of murderers and the murderer violated the norm fully aware of these consequences, so the murderer is to be imprisoned/killed/rehabed, whatever in order to prevent future murderers. There's no point in passing hatred or judgement (besides our own biological tendencies) on a past murder. It's crying over spilt milk, so to speak.

We convict murderers because we don't want other murderers to follow suit.
But you misunderstand - if every cause leads to an effect and every effect becomes a cause - the chain is set. This is why we can predict the path of a bullet given enough information. SO you are missing the point that determinism can be projected all the way till the 'end of time' even if it is impossible for us to grasp the near infinite variables involved.
uh... sure... if you knew everything that there is to know, you can accurately predict anything.... that's all you're really saying.

Although you can attempt at predictions, thinking about fate in the futuristic sense is not useful. It's only looking back that you can dismiss something as fate.

Is the future already determined? Yeah...kinda...in an objective sense, but whats the point of thinking about that though? You're a subjective creature and worrying about objective things is not pragmatic. If you let your perception of the future shape how you act now, you effectively change the future. There's a difference between the deterministic analysis of past actions and the "slave to fate, what's the point?" analysis of the future.

I get that every action is linked to another action, but if you simply dismiss everything as fate and give up on working for the future, you change the future. It's then your "fault" (curse you, English language) for percieving fate as fatalism. That is much more theist in the way it's formulated. It fails under the assumption that someone can actually tell accurately what the future is.
Again - it is not necessary to be able to predict every outcome to use determinism as a way to say that every outcome is fixed and, therefore, immutable.
ok, every past action is fixed. The future we can't know so it is not practical to conduct our behavior based on the unknown... so what? What's your point?

Determinism in my case is used to evaluate all factors up to this point, conclude that there's no choice in any of them, and live my life accordingly. Whether or not I buy into the illusion of choice also determines my actions as a result...

where are you going with this? How is any of this an argument against the determinist view of personal responsibility? Responsibility is the evaluation of a past, provable action, no?

Responsibility is who we blame for something that has already occured neccessary for us to pass blame. What does all this future stuff have to do with anything?

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