University of Tasmania
Warren_whole_thesis.pdf (406.86 kB)

An essay arguing against moral responsibility : how metaphysical libertarianism does not support blameworthiness

Download (406.86 kB)
posted on 2023-05-28, 00:32 authored by Warren, DJ
In this paper I argue that metaphysical libertarianism does not entail desserts based moral responsibility. I argue that regardless of the truth of free will, no-one ever deserves to be praised or blamed for their actions. I begin my discussion by arguing that either universal determinism is true, or something very much like it is true (e.g. mechanism). I go on to argue that the truth of either of these would be incompatible with the notion of free will that most people have, and that any notion of free will that can be made compatible with them would be nonsensical, and would not seem to be very free. I thus argue that compatibilism could not give us the sort of free will that could be thought to bestow desserts based moral responsibility. (It should go without saying that the falseness of free will would mean we are not morally accountable!) I next discuss various forms of libertarianism, and argue that agent causation theory is the only account of libertarianism that could sensibly be held to bestow us with moral responsibility, with all other accounts failing to provide us with something that actually sounds like free will (e.g. Ginet, who argues that 'free' actions are really random actions that merely feel free). I also argue that agent causation theory is a more sophisticated way of expressing what most members of the general public mean by the term 'free will'. I then go on to argue that even if agent causation theory were true, our psychology would effectively act very much like a deterministic force, to the extent that we would be as good as determined, and therefore, we would not be morally responsible for our actions. Thus, I argue that no-one is ever truly deserving of praise or blame. Next, I argue that utilitarianism is not threatened by the notion that we are not morally responsible ‚Äö- quite the contrary, this is good new for utilitarians, for it does away with many issues around justice ‚Äö- and that not seeing others as blameworthy leads to us being kinder to others, thus leading to much positive utility. Finally, I argue that we should amend our justice system so as to remove purely retributive punishments; we should still use deterrents, and I very much encourage rehabilitation


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Repository Status

  • Open

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager