Chisholm: Free will and Moral Responsibility Essay example

Submitted By jawad90
Words: 1083
Pages: 5

904142925 Chisholm Jonathan Gingerich

Chisholm presents a very interesting theory of moral responsibility. He asserts that we are morally responsible, and concludes with idea that both determinism and indeterminism are false. The idea being that neither of these theories are applicable to moral responsibility given what these theories entail. Chisholm gives different reasons as to why determinism/indeterminism and moral responsibility are mutually exclusive. He gives his account of moral responsibility in the form of an argument which I will explicate in the paper. I will also provide definitions for the key terms Chisholm employs, and how these terms tie in with the overall argument he presents. This paper will also raise a reasonable objection to this argument, whilst elaborating on why it is a good or valid objection to the argument.
Before constructing Chisholm’s argument, we must first establish what he means by determinism and indeterminism. Determinism according to Chisholm, is when every event is caused by another event. He believes that if determinism is true, then every event is caused by the previous event. His definition of indeterminism is, some event essential to the act itself is uncaused. Chisholm’s definitions are very intuitive, and he uses these definitions to elaborate on why moral responsibility is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism. Moral responsibility for Chisholm is when a certain event or state of affairs is brought about by a person, and that event was in his power. An important note Chisholm makes, relates to the idea that moral responsibility is only applicable if the person had the power to do otherwise, and bring about a different state of affairs. Chisholm’s claims that determinism and indeterminism do not fit with moral responsibility, concluding that some events are caused by agents. His argument is as follows: 1. Id determinism is true, then events are causally related, and every event is caused by another event. 2. If in fact determination is true, it is indicates that we are not morally responsible. 3. If indeterminism is true, then some event essential to the action is not caused. 4. If indetermination is true, we are not morally responsible. 5. However, we are morally responsible. 6. Thus neither determinism nor indeterminism is true. 7. If so, then the cause of some events is a person, specifically an agent.
In order to understand Chisholm’s argument, it is necessary to further explicate the second and fourth premises. For premise 2, P is morally responsible for X if P had the power to either perform or not perform X. However this contradicts with determinism, as if determinism was true then P would not have the power to bring about or not bring about X. Similarly for premise 4, with the distinction being that if indeterminism is true, then P would also not be able to bring about or not bring about X. Chisholm is explaining through this argument, that if either determinism or indeterminism is true, then there is no such thing as moral responsibility. He asserts in premise 5 that we are indeed morally responsible, therefore it follows deductively that both determinism and indeterminism are false. This is a very logical conclusion, and follows from the premises given. Chisholm concludes with the hypothesis that some agent must cause an event. If events cause other events (determinism) and some event essential to the action is uncaused (indeterminism) are both false, there needs to be something which initiates an event. He names this cause as an agent, which has no previous causes. The key distinction being made is that an agent is not an event, it is something which is uncaused and essentially what sets events in motion. He states that events are transuent causes, and defines these causes as a state of affairs brought about by one event causing another. However an agent is an immanent cause, which is what initially causes the transient…