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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You're conflating determinism and fatalism, Howard. Don't feel bad. It's very common. Proponents of free will do this all the time. :)
I am not a 'proponent of free will'. But I would like to be educated as to how it is possible to say that everything up to the present was predetermined by everything before that - but that this principle does not extend to the future - especially if there is no free will.

Simply put - if you have no freedom of choice - then how can you be held responsible for your choices?
You continue to confuse determinism with predictability and fate.

Check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Causal Determinism, if you're interested.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/
EXCELLENT question. this took me a lot of time to ponder this myself. Yes, responsibility is relative and not the fault of the individual.

Here's how I see it.

people have an obsession with punishment and responsibility. Although it is true that without punishment people would go wild and such, it's not because of the punishment factor. It's because of the effect of punishment on the current mind that we should punish; not the basis of "fault."

When you know that you'll starve if you don't go to work, you go to work and make some money. This is positive reinforcement and is psychologically proven to be the most effective way to punish.

What really stops a devient teen from breaking into the car? The threat of arrest and punishment. What makes them believe that they will be punished? Past experience that validates that they will.

Punishment shouldn't be viewed as revenge against someone at fault, but rather a preventative measure against future dangers to the individual and society.

I'm really fucked up from taking my test and don't have the heart to proofread. did that make sense to you or do I need to reword?
But punishment isn't a prevention in the way you mean it. It was determined by precursory events that can be traced back to the big bang and projected out to the 'end of time' (see the third law of thermal dynamics)

According to determinism - everything is fixed. Nothing in the universe is in flux. It all unfolds precisely as one thing follows another. Nothing can be changed. It's all already in the cards.

This is true unless something happens that was not caused by something else or, conversely, strict determinism could possibly be negated to a degree if something happens that fails to have any further effect whatsoever.
you're confusing determinism with fatalism. determinism doesn't stretch towards the end.

Determinism is more like: everything up to this point has been determined. The future is up for grabs, but depends on the present.

You're over-analyzing and making false assumptions about my position on determinism. What's all this about cards? This isn't some mystical voodoo here about prophecies and destiny and pre-determined fate. Everything up to this point has observable causes and there isn't any proof of free will. That's it.

is that clearer now? any more objections or confusion?
how can everything up to this point have been determined but everything going forward remain in flux?
because whether or not that's true, it's pointless to speculate about the future in that way because the speculation is useless. What we know is what has happened up till now. We predict that the future will remain the same only on the assumption that it conforms to the past.

The past has already happened. It is observable and documentable. It is provable. The future can't be proven and is not so certain. However, we can assume that if the future conforms to the past, then now's actions will determine the future. that much is true.

When you make a speculation about the future, you create a "now." That now is observable, finite, and subject to determinalism. Constantly speculating about the future in a fatalistic sense leads to 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. We've observed how it is undesirable in the past to rely on self-fulfilling prophecy, so it is reasonable to assume that it isn't wise or practical to conduct ourselves in the practice of fatalism when conducting ourself in the now.

make any more sense?
How can you have a self-fulfilling prophesy if everything that happens occurs as a result of a previous and endless chain of causality? If there is no free-will, there can be no self-fulfilling prophesy. The prophesy is already set by the backdrop of causality that has already occurred.
um... you understand self-fulfilling prophecy, yes? it's not a religious term.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception more likely to come true.

You make a prediction, you act in a way that makes that prediction more likely to occur, you confirm your prediction.

Ex: you predict that China is going to launch a nuclear strike on the US. The US launches nukes at China. China launches nukes, confirming suspicion.

you're again assuming that the future is already determined and going too far into analyzing it.
The future hasn't happened yet. There are factors that are going into the future's determinism that we can't possibly know. you can't accurately predict the future unless you know every factor going into it. you can't know every factor going into it. therefore, practicing fatalism is flawed.

It has no practical application to the world and there's no point in arguing about it. It is not a pragmatic argument. It is my understanding that you are trying to find a way to apply determinism to yourself pragmatically if you can grasp the full concept and it's possible flaws. Fatalism isn't a flaw of determinism.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is a term used to describe events that have already happened and we can more or less trace the results of and then say that the prediction made the outcome happen/more likely.

Practicing fatalism makes engaging in self-fulfilling prophecy more likely based on the observation that we have of past encounters with SFP.

Did I understand your destinction right? Anything else to respond to?
If there is no free will - you cannot 'make' anything more or less likely.

However, I get your very fine distinction between determinism and fatalism (I think). Fatalism is true - but impractical. Because, despite the fact that the cards are already in a given order (de facto) based on the inexorable march of cause and effect - you can't operate as if you know what that order is, in advance (short of knowing the odds and counting cards.)
right. to extend the metaphor of the cards, pretend you're in a casino being dealt cards from the poker shoe.

Determinism says that the cards, already shuffled, are in a definite order to the cards and once I see my 2 (holdem) cards, I can make a prediction based on what has already happened (I have been dealt these two cards, therefore it's likely that nobody else has been dealt these two cards. I have a probability of winning, I'll act on it.).

Fatalism says either I know what the next card is going to be in the river and you know everybody else's hand in addition to your own (an impractical and untrue stretch) or the opposite extreme (I can't possibly know anything or have any impact on my betting. What's the point?).
Either application of fatalism in poker will probably lose you a lot of money.

The odds in a given hand are what you analyze. The outcome may be definite, but how you bet effects the outcome of the game, which is what matters when you play. When you string multiple poker games together, the chip advantages also stack up in probabilities, so it is an evergoing process of past bets influencing future bets.

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