Free Will Moment

July 23, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I found this New York Times blog post interesting, and I submitted the following comment:

I don’t see why (iv) above must be true — that is, that we must have chosen how we are in order to be held responsible for the actions that follow from that being. In fact, it’s commonplace and probably morally necessary to hold ourselves responsible for actions and states that we did not explicitly choose.

This concerns me because I am manic-depressive, and though I didn’t choose to be that way, I have remarkable latitude >and< responsibility with regard to my actions (though perhaps not to the extent that a person with no mental illness has). No one would seriously argue that, since I haven't chosen my mental state at any point in my adult life, I can't be held responsible for anything that I do. Or, to look at a more specific instance: If I suspect that my medication is making me dangerously ill — perhaps even exacerbating my illness — I may go off my medication. If, as a result, I have a manic episode and, say, steal your car or seduce your husband, it seems to me that I could (and should) be held responsible for my actions, even though I didn't choose to be manic, or to experience side effects from my medication. I acted according to my best judgment; as it turns out, I still hurt people. Did I have free will? Even the most minute examination of the circumstances will not prove that I did or didn't. Am I responsible? Following David Jones above, I would say that, yes, I am.

My point is this: It's fruitless to try to reason out free will and responsibility without considering the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves, and acknowledging that we cannot predict the results of our actions.

Love to all.


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