• ToothyMaw
    The following is a post I made a few months ago that I am now following up on in this OP:

    I will get this out of the way: this is primarily about the functioning of code law in terms of our moral principles; code law does not need an irrefutable philosophical underpinning to function, but it makes more sense in terms of moral culpability if we keep our laws open to interpretation, which is the main point of this post.

    The intuitive and pervasive idea of free choice as a measuring stick for moral culpability is ill-founded - in the context of laws that are primarily broken as a function of one’s actions - especially if determinism isn't false.

    Many theories of moral culpability are predicated on the idea of freedom of choice, the idea that one could have both chosen otherwise and that one’s choice is unaffected by external causation. This idea of moral culpability based upon freedom of choice is at odds with determinism, which is Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace’s classic formulation that the present state of the universe is the effect of its previous state and the cause of the state that follows it. Therefore, he says, if a mind, at any given moment, could know all of the forces operating in nature and the respective positions of all its components, it would thereby know with certainty the future and the past of every entity, large or small.

    Determinism and freedom of choice have heavy implications for code law, which is a set of very specific laws. The conditions for a very specific law to be broken are mostly distinct from other very specific laws - they are very specific. Therefore one’s actions, and thus choices, are mostly what determines if they are broken. It follows that if one believes in free choice the breaking of these laws is the result of a self-contained causal chain beginning with the free choice. This implies that there is nothing affecting the choice other than whatever it is that is inherent to free actions that is free.

    This quality is not a cause in and of itself except insofar as it causes free actions to be free. Thus, there are no original, external causes for the very specific law to be broken.

    There are causes within the self-contained causal chain, but even if the cause for the rule being broken is taken to be the action, the action is still the result of the free choice and nothing else, which is itself an uncaused cause. Thus, it remains that if code law is to be predicated on free choice, there is no room for external causation; the choices, and thus actions, resulting in the conditions for the law being broken, are not externally caused.

    In essence: less specific laws are open to interpretation when they are broken; their application is a function of both choice and circumstance, and, therefore, are not merely broken as a result of one’s actions; they are relative. Very specific laws, in the context of free choice, are broken only as a function of one's choices and thus actions.

    Since code law, if predicated upon free choice, leaves no room for external causation, there is a contradiction; there are without a doubt mostly or wholly unfree choices that result in very specific laws being broken. Thus, in terms of moral culpability, the application of very specific laws must either necessarily preclude genuinely free choice or take into account external causes, when they are relevant, for non-arbitrary, non-random choices. If it precludes freedom of choice then no one is morally culpable according to the following argument:

    (1) An agent is only responsible for an action if they could have chosen to act otherwise and are autonomous.

    (2) An agent cannot choose to act otherwise and is not autonomous.

    (3) Therefore, an agent is not responsible for a choice and the resultant action.

    A possible escape hatch is to assert that all that is needed in order to hold agents accountable for their actions is the opportunity to act freely in accordance with their will, but, even then, to have done differently and be morally culpable in a way proponents of free choice would find meaningful, one must prove determinism false according to the PAP (principle of alternate possibilities) which dictates that:

    (1) An agent is responsible for an action only if said agent could have done otherwise.

    (2) An agent could have done otherwise only if causal determinism is false.

    (3) Therefore, an agent is responsible for an action only if causal determinism is false.

    Therefore, there really is no escape hatch; this leaves us with nothing but the obviously true claim that people act in accordance with their wills, which is compatible with determinism. Thus, very specific laws, in the context of the reality of unfree choices, make little sense if determinism isn’t false; no one can be held morally culpable for their actions. This could be remedied by making the conditions for very specific laws to be broken a function of approximate external causes when they are relevant - or by making them a little less specific.

    The ever-lovable Bartricks pointed out to me that the last part of my argument introducing the PAP begs the question; I assumed that determinism is true in the premise and must be proven false in order to justify moral culpability. So I have now added the following:

    It is now necessary to evaluate conditional analyses of what it means to have the ability to do otherwise in order to explore one more potential solution. One simple conditional analysis (yanked from the SEP) is:

    An agent S has the ability to do otherwise if and only if, were S to choose to do otherwise, S would do otherwise.

    This analysis, which is really just an isolated analysis of free action, is compatible with determinism, thereby bypassing the PAP: it does not say that one would need to be able to do otherwise, but rather that if one chose to do otherwise, one would do otherwise.

    If we redefine what it is to act freely to mean that one can satisfy the simple conditional analysis, then the choice is still paramount, but it is not an uncaused cause in the context of making a choice to break a law. Furthermore, within the parameters of choice, it yields a responsibility that is meaningful (although perhaps not in an ideal way): one can act freely in accordance with their will even if determinism is true, and, thus, people can be held responsible for their actions - given the locus isn't shifted to the causes of the choice.

    However, this analysis says nothing about whether our choices are free. This seems to be an advantage, being as if the choice was uncaused the analysis wouldn’t be compatible with the fact that some choices are not free.

    In the context of code law this means that we can preserve moral responsibility while still taking into account causes of choices when they are relevant - we just need to agree on which causes should be taken into account.
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