Hard determinism, the acceptance of determinism and the rejection of libertarian free will,
results in some serious consequences for moral responsibility. At its most extreme interpretation a
form of moral nihilism arises. ”Without God ... everything is permitted now.” That is, if
determinism holds true, then there is no free choice, and without free choice there can be no
moral responsibility. By taking hard determinism to its logical conclusion, and evaluating the
results of a steadfast adherence to the theory this paper serves to show that moral nihilism is not
the inevitable end to morality in a hard determinist framework. Instead morality, if not wholly, at
least partially, is capable of being maintained by the hard determinist.
Determinism is the philosophical theory that for every action there exists antecedent
conditions from which that action necessarily follows and these conditions are governed entirely
by the natural laws of the universe. Hard determinism claims that not only is determinism true,
but that it is also wholly incompatible with free will. Hard determinism employs the following
physicalist argument as a means of extinguishing the notion of free will:
1. The world, including man, at its most essential level is composed of quanta in motion
(quanta constituting the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction).
2. The motion of these quanta are governed by a set of materialistic principles constituting the
physical laws of the universe.
3. All actions are determined by antecedent causes that constitute the laws of the universe
acting upon physical entities (quanta).Lawson 2
4. Given the nature of physical entities (quanta) and the laws that govern their behaviour, there
is no principle of autonomy (free-choice).
5. All actions are determined by antecedent causes. Given the antecedent causes, the actions
cannot be other than what they are.
∴ It follows that there are no free choices, and thus no free-will.
The implications of accepting hard determinism are born from this abolition of free will.
Hard determinists notion of free will is that of libertarian free will. This notion of free will
requires that our choices are completely free from determination or restricted by human nature,
nor are they constrained by predetermination by God. As the hard determinist presupposes a
deterministic universe libertarian free will is impossible. A commonly accepted necessary
precondition for moral responsibility is free choice and in the case of the hard determinist this
free choice is constituted by libertarian free will. Without the possibility of free will moral
responsibility is no longer possible. A succinct version of the hard determinists argument for the
freedom from moral responsibility is as follows:
1. Suppose that determinism is true.
2. If determinism is true then our characters are ultimately due to forces beyond our control.
3. If our characters are ultimately due to forces beyond our control, then no...