A chain of infinite causes goes on and on. It’s an easy argument to fall into and I’ll admit. I’m hooked.
I understand that all our actions and personalities can be linked back to how we were brought up and from the society around us that influences our actions greatly. We all use phones because it’s now the only way we know to communicate. We can look back on what we have been surrounded by and realise that a lot is due to that which is around us.
So, when we think about that around us, do we then consider that our actions are rarely our own? What can we decide is fully our own responsibility when so much of our lives comes from media and what the government teaches us to be correct. For all we know, we could have been brought up into a world which sacrificing people to stop global warming could have been a thing and we would have seen it as normal despite that being ridiculous. We are so influenced by that around us that our actions come from factors we can’t stop. So, are we therefore not to blame?
But, who do we blame? It’s a matter of figuring out that we’re not just our own build, we are affected by that around us but we can’t help it. I think what’s hardest is that we can’t put blame on anyone because there is so many factors. This is what makes being human so difficult. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves despite it not really being our fault. I like to take a libertarian point of view on this.
See, libertarians see the decisions we make as split into the personality and moral self. We have the personality which is predictable through hereditary and environmental factors. The moral self is an ethical concept. It varies on different situations. So, we can therefore take some responsibility in the fact that we therefore do have a choice when we decide to. Perhaps relating to Kants ideas on desire and our duties. It’s about choosing between what we should do that’s from our genetics or our ‘duty’ in comparison to our duty which is kind of like the moral self which is more self-aware. This would then mean that we do have responsibility and it’s annoying to hear. So what can we do with this?
It’s about moving onto compatibilists or soft determinism. Where there’s an in-between of decisions already being made and having freedom. It’s where I believe the cause argument can come into it. We are evidently affected by everything around us but we also have some say because other we would be easily controlled?
An example is one I’ve used before: Gandhi was fasting because he wanted to free India. This seems apparent that it’s a free action and is morally acceptable which Campbell would define as ‘casually undetermined choice’ in which the person involved passes by inclination and follows duty. Yet, is this truly undetermined? Gandhi had a desire to free India which therefore caused him to to fast and this desire was in fact caused by upbringings and education from the Hindu faith eventually leading him to the causal effect of fasting. Although this may seem difficult to establish, it is theoretically possible meaning that all human actions, whether free or not, are wholly governed by causes. So if we have causes within a so called free action, there must be the same in determined actions such as a man fasting in the desert because there was no food. It is pre-determined for there is no food to eat.
Yet, if both this and Gandhi fasting have causal events leading to it, is there a difference? This is where Compatibilists consider internally and externally caused. Internally being that which is voluntarily chosen and externally caused is involuntarily chosen meaning it is forced upon one. Therefore it comes to the concept that if humans are responsible for their moral actions, it is the case, whether the action is voluntary or involuntary. For this would decide whether it is freely chosen but there is still the affect of causes meaning the decision is influenced by other factors but is still chosen thus meaning that it is possible to come to a mix between determinism and libertarianism.
Yet, one can pick apart that if it is influenced, how much is this influence an affect on the overall judgement? They may argue that I have misinterpreted the point of ‘influence’ as a determiner for they could suggest that the influence is simply a matter of being preferred to one instance over another but it is the freedom that allows one to choose and whether it be the desired choice or not then it is still out of self determined decision-making. This can lead me to conclude That rather than having an idea of humans being responsible or not, it is mixture.
There will never be the full conclusion that we are determined creatures or fully free because we will always have these ‘determiners’ in our lives. To be fully free would be to start from scratch without any factors which is impossible. So, a mixture is evident. We are responsible but with some sense of influence.