Which theory best explains the true nature of moral responsibility and its relation to human freedom and determinism–libertarianism, hard determinism or compatibilism?
People live in a culture that teaches or rather encourages individuals to have free will for their actions and take responsibility for their outcomes. However, some believe that they are not responsible for their actions because other forces take control of their decisions and actions. Thus, they think that there are antecedent forces that explain behaviors such as the laws of nature and conditioning. In the case of philosophy and moral responsibility, there is a theory based on human experience. Hard-determinism, libertarianism or compatibilism are theories that give different personal experiences descriptions. These theories describe what they perceive as the case of morality, freedom, and determinism or even lack of all. The study of morals and human freedom is hard, and often people settle for compatibilism as the best explanation of its relation to determinism and human freedom. It is undeniably true that there is the existence of a determined mind and a state of human morals and freedom.
Hard-determinism theory argues that all human actions are caused that is human activities are a response to stimuli. At one point in life, one sits downs and wonders why they did something and probably try finding an explanation to the causes of the behaviors. Determinism explains in detail why a person is behaving in a certain way and give answers about reasons that led to the decisions made. From a determinist theory argument, every event that takes place is causally determined. Notably, events are made of human thoughts, choices, and actions. Therefore, according to Lawhead all of them are casually determined (2013). For example, if a couple got divorced and visited a psychologist, he/she is likely to ask or find out if the parents of the couple were/are divorced. The cause of the divorce is causally determined; physicists, psychologists, and evolutionary biologist have proven that there exists universal causation. Determinism theory suggests that everything across the universe has some causal laws governing them; therefore, whatever happens at any time is as a result of an antecedent cause (Lawhead, 2013). This theory explains that all actions are hard-determined; thus, there are no other explanations for human actions except that it is the effect of antecedent causes. Besides, the determinist theory explains that there exist deliberate and accidental patterns of stimulus-response reinforcement that conditions humans. For example, today money is a conditioning agent. People believe that one can get another person to do what they want as long as the price is right. Thus, through conditioning, determinists believe that they can predict basic human behaviors and also manipulate people into any action. All they need is a greater knowledge of human behavior laws.
Libertarianism theory argues that humans are entirely free and are responsible for their actions. Free will and determinism go hand in hand. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre gives a case of what being a human is all about and what they believe is free-will. He argues that using determinism theory an example of the choice between war or suicide (Lawhead, 146). A person choosing either of the options must have a high level of decision-making and also have strong causes acting. For example, is the person a patriot, does he/she have an innate will to survive? According to Satre, libertarianism denies determinism. Where determinism entails that a person would have done otherwise moral responsibility shows that he/she would not have done otherwise. Every person has a duty on earth and is not completely determined; a society would otherwise have difficulties for survival if there lacked a deep sense of moral responsibility.
Lastly, compatibilism theory which is the most reasonable is a combination of libertarianism and determinism. The theory argues that although human behavior is determined, they have the free-will to act voluntarily. The theory says that humans are determined but still have moral responsibilities; the foundation for the distinction is between involuntary and voluntary behavior. Determinism should not affect people’s interpersonal relations; they have to look deeper into the moral responsibility and outcome. Every action a person takes require an internal insight. For example, people feel grateful for services well-rendered and resentful if hurt on purpose. Science supports determinism, thus the belief that people are determined to some extent. Morality explains that, although we are determined, we have to represent ourselves in the best way and must be held responsible for our behaviors (Lawhead, 2013). God believers believe in human freedom of will. They use this belief to explain the perception of sins; how can one explain human beings having total blame for their sins or their wrong-doings on earth? People act to follow an impulse, but they have the freedom and responsibility to change the causes of their actions. For example, a thief will voluntarily steal maybe for purpose reasons such as feed the family while a kleptomaniac cannot help stealing. The latter act is un-free while the former is a free act. Although they have antecedent causes, the free-will is different. Compatibilist believe that free acts are caused by reasons the person has while non-rational coercion causes unfree actions. One can conclude that most of the acts done freely are those with psychological effects on the person while those not feely done cause external state of affairs to the person. From the text, compatibilists believe in two things; one, humans are determined and two: that these determinations are internal to an agent and when they act from these subjective determinations they are doing so voluntarily and freely. From W.T. Stace perspective, people have a basis for morals to arise.
Each theory gives its explanation regarding free-will and determinism, and each has its virtues and vices. Determinism, for example, fails because it assumes that every person has moral responsibility which means that they have an option of doing otherwise. However, how does one hold a baby responsible for crying? It is possible to use the theory on a twenty-year-old doing drugs because they would have done otherwise. The problem with the libertarian argument is that it assumes humans have a misguided intuition and introspection about their behavior. Therefore, the two theories are disqualified, and compatibilism becomes the only resolute. According to this theory, although human behavior is determined, people have free will to act voluntarily. This explanation is true because, looking at human behaviors at a moral perspective and individual deliberators, people have a free will while through a science and neuro-physiology view, their actions are determined. There are two forces; objective and subjective perspectives of intelligent behavior. Thus, the compatibilist theory is most suitable to explain the true nature of moral responsibility concerning determinism and human freedom.