• Truth Seeker
    423
    Who is morally culpable? I don't know. I know that the legal system holds people culpable if they do anything illegal. Are criminals truly morally culpable? If hard determinism is true, then no one is morally culpable. How do we figure out whether or not hard determinism is true? Organisms make choices but their choices are not free from their genes, environments, nutrients, and experiences. Their choices are determined and constrained by their genes, environments, nutrients, and experiences. For example, I would not be typing this post if I were alive 1,000 years ago instead of now as there was no computer and internet back then. If I had the genes of a chicken instead of my genes I would not be typing this post either. I would not be typing this post if I didn't experience learning the English language. I would not be typing this post if I was deprived of all the nutrients that I have consumed since I was conceived. Is it inevitable that I typed this post when and where I typed this post? Am I morally culpable for the choice to type this post? Please explain how you have worked out the answer. Thank you very much.

    1. Who is morally culpable? (15 votes)
        All sentient biological beings e.g. humans, lions, cows, chickens, snails, dolphins, etc.
          0%
        All sentient biological, technological and religious beings e.g. humans, robots, AI, gods, devil
          0%
        All adult humans with sound minds.
        80%
        Only religious beings e.g. gods, devil, angels, demons
          0%
        Only technological beings e.g. AI and robots
          0%
        No one
        20%
        Everyting that exists e.g. dark matter and energy, ordinary matter and energy
          0%
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    If hard determinism is true, then no one is morally culpableTruth Seeker
    On the contrary: if determinism is true, then we are determined to assign moral culpability to everyone (i.e. beings like ourselves at least).
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I am not talking about assigning moral culpability. I am talking about actual moral culpability. Is anyone actually morally culpable? Do you understand the difference?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Moral culpability really, as far as I can see, takes two forms:

    Internal culpability, which is to say feelings of responsibility and obligation to behave correctly, feelings of guilt or shame to not behave incorrectly, all of the things inside of you that make you want to behave in a moral way.

    External culpability, which means people holding you accountable for what you do (usually in the form of negative consequences for undesirable behaviour).

    So "who is morally culpable?" could be asked from both perspectives. A lion would not feel guilty for eating a human child, so they lion is clearly not culpable in the internal sense (though there may be other things in a lions life that it does feel culpable for, for all I know).

    But I think the op means mostly in the second sense, and can be rephrased as "who should we add a society hold to be morally culpable?" Is that right?
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    Since morality itself is an exclusively human concept, it follows that only humans can be moral or immoral, according to their own rules of right conduct. We generally excuse the feeble-minded, insane and very young, due to their lack of judgment.
    though it was not always so:
    The youngest person confirmed to have been hanged in England was Michael Hamond, aged just seven. He was hanged in King's Lynn, Norfolk, next to his sister Ann, who was 11 at the time
    However, the degree of culpability is probably different in each case.
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    If determinism is true, then we are determined to assign moral culpability to whomever we think is "actually" morally culpable. There cannot be a vantage point for us outside of this causal nexus to differentiate right or wrong about assigning "actual moral culpability". That distinction has no meaning if determinism is the case.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I agree with you. Is determinism true? How can we know for sure?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    Does it have meaning if the universe has genuine randomness?
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I am so sorry that Michael and Ann were hanged. I think that it was wrong to do that to them. How would we work out to what degree who is culpable?
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I like your distinction between internal and external culpability. What I am asking about is actual culpability. Is anyone actually culpable for anything they do or don't do? This is different from both internal and external culpability. It is also different from assigned culpability.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    how is it different?

    If I ask the question, "Who should we as a society hold culpable", then it what way is that different from the question "Who is actually culpable?"

    I guess I'm not understanding exactly what "actual culpability" is here, if it's different from that. Those two questions seem like they always have the same answer, to me.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I will do my best to clarify what I mean by actual culpability.

    If X murders Y, the legal system will hold him/her culpable. However, if hard determinism is true, then it is inevitable that X murdered Y. In that case, X is not actually culpable. The actions of X are as determined and inevitable as death by an earthquake. We don't hold earthquakes culpable for murder, but we hold adult humans of sound mind culpable for murder. Should we though? Are they actually any more culpable than an earthquake is culpable?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    I don't take it for granted that determinism means you shouldn't hold someone culpable. That's because the alternative to determinism, to me, seems to be randomness, and I don't think randomness can add culpability
  • Lionino
    1.4k
    I think this is a good question. My view is that we should not blame the fish for swimming. Some people cannot help themselves but do what they do, regardless of whether hard determinism is true or not. But we should also not help ourselves against jailing those that pose a threat to us. It might just be that socially and psychologically stressing over a serial killer, ultimately over the question of "Why did you do that?", might be as pointless as asking the hurricane "Why did you destroy my house?".

    if determinism is true, then we are determined to assign moral culpability to everyone180 Proof

    :ok:

    Is anyone actually morally culpable?Truth Seeker

    For me morality is a complete human invention (non-realism), so moral guilt has to be assigned, it is never actual.

    In that case, X is not actually culpableTruth Seeker

    Well, yes, because "actually culpable" for you seems to imply free will. So under determinism no one is "actually culpable". Conclusion follows from the premises.
  • noAxioms
    1.3k
    I didn't vote on the poll since 'none of the above' wasn't a choice.

    Is determinism true? How can we know for sure?Truth Seeker
    Contrary to the popular belief, determinism has nothing to do with this. It has to do with the physics of our universe being causally closed. If it is (deterministic or random), then there can be no objective morality, or as 180 puts it:
    There cannot be a vantage point for us outside of this causal nexus to differentiate right or wrong about assigning "actual moral culpability180 Proof
    :100:

    I don't take it for granted that determinism means you shouldn't hold someone culpable.flannel jesus
    That's the common mistake. Determinism (or any closed physics) means that one cannot be held objectively culpable, which is very different from being held culpable.

    So while there are valid interpretations of physics that are deterministic and ones that are not, the difference is moot. The question is if physics is causally closed. Those that posit objective morality require the cause of one's choices to come from elsewhere than physics, hence the need for physics to not be causally closed.


    I find all this a side track to what moral culpability is. Morals are a product of a society with expectations on its members. If something is not a member of such a society, then moral culpability is meaningless. If you disagree (which I'm sure many do), then provide a counterexample.

    If morals are objective, then the rules of all societies anywhere must be based on these objective rules. So say you're playing dungeons and dragons. The dungeon is not closed. The choices made are made by people outside. There is a moral code that you don't betray your team members. That can only be meaningful if the player has some control over his character in the game. Else the character's actions are determined by the closed physics of the game and those outside the game cannot hold him moral culpable.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    What are the implications of hard determinism?
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    I don't know, I wouldn't describe myself as a "hard determinist". What do you think the implications are?
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    If hard determinism is true, then everything that happens, happens inevitably and no one has moral culpability. This is what I think but I can't prove or disprove hard determinism.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    That's interesting. I am sorry that I didn't think of "None of the above" as one of the options. Why didn't I think of that? Is it my fault? Is it inevitable that I did not think of that but you did? I don't know.

    I agree that morals are social constructs but social constructs are not free from the biology, chemistry and physics that make up the members of a society. In other words, social rules are not free from hard determinism, they are determined by hard determinism.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    I am so sorry that Michael and Ann were hanged.Truth Seeker

    It was in the 1700's. Since most hangings were for murder, I assume they killed a younger sibling, since they were hardly big enough to kill an adult. It was not uncommon in those days to hang teenagers; quite a few in their early teens. Mostly boys, and without doing extensive research, I'd guess they either fought back against a father or master - there was a good deal of open abuse. Or they were caught stealing and lashed out - lots of people were poor to the point of starvation; lots of people were desperate. On the other side, the children grew up fast in those conditions; they were not the innocent bairns we pamper nowadays.
    How would we work out to what degree who is culpable?Truth Seeker
    Judges usually have quite broad discretionary power - if their hands are not tied with mandatory minimum sentences.
    A thoughtful and well-informed person can look through the evidence, consider the culprit's circumstances, capabilities and motivation, what pressures and influences were at work on him, whether the illegal act was spontaneous or premeditated, what damage it caused, whether he did it on his own, or other people were involved - all kinds of factors come into such a judgment.
    I'm not saying every jurist has the patience or tolerance or inclination to weigh each case on its merits, only that in theory, they can and should. So should jury members: that's their assigned task.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    What's the alternative to determinism to you? Is it just some degree of randomness sprinkled in? Like some visions of quantum mechanics suggest?
  • Joshs
    5.2k


    Some people cannot help themselves but do what they do, regardless of whether hard determinism is true or not. But we should also not help ourselves against jailing those that pose a threat to us. It might just be that socially and psychologically stressing over a serial killer, ultimately over the question of "Why did you do that?", might be as pointless as asking the hurricane "Why did you destroy my house?"Lionino

    I think it’s the most important question there is. But we’re so overwhelmed by the effort to answer it that we throw up our hands and fall back on a concept of blame. We blame the free willing autonomous subject. Or we blame the social milieu. Or we blame genetics and biology. Or we blame determinism. What blame fails to do is come up with an explanation of behavior that avoids pinning it on arbitrary internal ( spiritual will, biological impulse, the id) or external (society, mother and father) demons, conditionings and influences. We fail to understand ‘blameful’ behavior in terms of motivations that not only are justified by the standards of the person who initiated it, but by our own standards of sense-making.
  • Joshs
    5.2k


    ↪Truth Seeker What's the alternative to determinism to you? Is it just some degree of randomness sprinkled in? Like some visions of quantum mechanics suggest?flannel jesus

    It seems to me that determinism and randomness presuppose each other. That’s why proponents of determinism, like Martha Nussbaum and Daniel Dennett support blame and punishment. Dteeminism has arbitrariness built into it, and arbitrariness justifies blameful
    justice. We don’t punish evil souls, we reshape capricious, wayward behaviors.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    But we’re so overwhelmed by the effort to answer it that we throw up our hands and fall back on a concept of blame.Joshs

    I think this goes back to the patriarchal societies and their religions. Reward and punishment is one way to maintain social order, but it's not the only way. It might be possible to approach harmful actions from a perspective other than assigning guilt. We might look at the person who committed a harmful act as damaged and in need of repair. Or we might consider whether that individual is able to make some kind of restitution and win forgiveness from the victim. We might look at justice from the First Nations' POV:
    The purpose of a justice system in an Aboriginal society is to restore the peace and equilibrium within the community, and to reconcile the accused with his or her own conscience and with the individual or family who has been wronged.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    Thank you for explaining the context. I would never be a judge because I have no idea how to work out who is morally culpable.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I don't know of any alternative to hard determinism that is evidence-based. I am aware that religious people believe that people have free will due to having immortal souls piloting their bodies. I am not convinced that souls exist but I am open to examining any evidence offered.

    Quantum indeterminism does not lead to macroscopic indeterminism because of quantum decoherence. Also, quantum randomness does not lead to macroscopic randomness because of quantum decoherence.

    Besides, randomness cannot be the justification for moral culpability of any being except for an all-knowing and all-powerful God who could be blamed and praised for everything that exists and everything that happens.

    I am not convinced that God or gods exist but I am open to examining any evidence offered.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    I don't think souls add anything to the conversation at all, because souls, if they exist, still evolve over time in a semi-predictable way, they apparently share the same direction of flow of time as the physical world, and thus they are still either deterministic or maybe have a bit of randomness sprinkled in.

    Which leaves us the same place we were before souls were introduced to the conversation: either we exist in a deterministic system, or we exist in a system that's partially rule-based and partially random. That's true with or without souls.

    You said people can't be culpable if determinism is true, which makes me think that you think that people can be culpable maybe if determinism isn't true - which to me reads like "people can be culpable if there's some randomness".

    This is what I'm trying to explore - can randomness add culpability? Full disclosure, I do not believe it can.
  • Truth Seeker
    423
    I don't think randomness adds culpability. I don't think our choices are random. I think our choices are determined and constrained by our genes, environments, nutrients, and experiences.

    Adding soul to the equation only confuses the matter. How does an immaterial soul interact with a material body? How can an immaterial soul make choices that are free from genes, environments, nutrients, and experiences? I don't know. I am not convinced that souls exist.
  • Joshs
    5.2k


    It might be possible to approach harmful actions from a perspective other than assigning guilt. We might look at the person who committed a harmful act as damaged and in need of repair. Or we might consider whether that individual is able to make some kind of restitution and win forgiveness from the victim. We might look at justice from the First Nations' POV:
    The purpose of a justice system in an Aboriginal society is to restore the peace and equilibrium within the community, and to reconcile the accused with his or her own conscience and with the individual or family who has been wronged.
    Vera Mont

    Concepts like forgiveness depend on the prior assessment of blame and guilt. Who says the person who does harm is ‘damaged’ and in need of ‘repair’? I’m guessing it’s not the person who committed the ‘wrongful’ act.
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    flannel jesus I don't think randomness adds culpability.Truth Seeker

    Neither do i, which is why I wonder why early in the thread you tied culpability to determinism.
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