Free Will, Determinism, and Responsibility
There are many events in a person's life that have an impact so large, that the person' life is forever changed. Hopefully most such events are positive, and help him in his life. However, there is also the undeniable fact that bad things happen. It is not uncommon to hear someone wondering aloud why an event took place. A person's actions come into question, and it is wondered what the person's motivation was. Once we start questioning the events of our lives, we begin to test out different theories that we have heard over time. "It was fate," or "It is part of God's plan," or other theories which attempt to put some meaning and reasoning behind events in our lives. Human's also begin to wonder how it is that their actions are determined. Aside from these various explanations, philosopher's have created explanations which can tell the story of human action. There are four main positions that one can maintain. Hard determinism, compatibilism, indeterminism, and scepticism. Each of the stances holds a different explanation for human action which can be argued and debated. I believe that the idea of compatibilism is the best answer to this problem. Combining determinism with responsibility makes for the best argument and explanation for human action.
Compatibilism is the "reconciliation of responsibility and determinism." It is the attempt to allow a person's actions to be causally determined, yet the person still be responsible. On the surface, this does not sound like it is possible. If a person's actions are causally determined, that means that they have no control over them; the action was determined without their knowledge or consent. If this is the case, then how can one's action's be determined without their control, while the person is held morally responsible? On the surface the two do not seem to fit together. However in Freedom and Necessity, Ayer finds situation where one can be responsible while their action's are causally determined.
The first step in Ayer's argument is that we make choices which determine our character. Those choices are either an accident or they are not. If the choices are an accident, then we are not responsible for our actions. We may act out of our own free will, but we do that because of our character which we have no control over. Therefore, even though we are acting out of free will, we cannot be held responsible. The other option is that our choices are not accidents. In this case, there is a causal explanation, and we are led back to determinism. The line of thought which is responsible for this argument, is this: we make...