Determinism and individual accountability
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26-07-2012, 08:57 AM
Determinism and individual accountability
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In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, there has been a great deal of discussion about individual accountability, societal and genetic influences on behavior, and theories of punishment. This quote by Ronald Reagan typifies the conservative reaction to the idea that a criminal might not be fully responsible for his or her behavior. However, this is really a straw man argument, because people with deterministic leanings do not argue that society is solely responsible for crime. Rather, determinists, materialists, and others who reject dualism believe that human behavior is strongly (or totally) influenced by a environment and heredity. If there is some little "unmoved mover" in our heads that is ultimately responsible for making decisions (and thus creating personal accountability), it must have very little to do in light of the myriad of factors that effect our thought processes.

One can be a determinist and still believe in incarceration and other forms of punishment. For example, it is necessary to separate a criminal from society in order to prevent future crime by the same individual, as well as to deter criminal acts by other individuals.

What is difficult to accept, however, is the concept of retributive punishment, which only makes sense in a context of complete and unfettered free will. Even religious conservatives, in a moment of honesty, must agree that this does not exist. To argue otherwise is to ignore all of the psychological and sociological studies, not to mention the latest brain research, that shows our behavior is influenced (I would say controlled) by forces internal and external to each of us. A good example of this includes the many studies showing the influence of oxytocin on human behavior, particularly in the case of mother/infant interactions.

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26-07-2012, 09:09 AM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
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26-07-2012, 10:43 AM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 08:57 AM)Theofrak Wrote:  What is difficult to accept, however, is the concept of retributive punishment, which only makes sense in a context of complete and unfettered free will. Even religious conservatives, in a moment of honesty, must agree that this does not exist. To argue otherwise is to ignore all of the psychological and sociological studies, not to mention the latest brain research, that shows our behavior is influenced (I would say controlled) by forces internal and external to each of us.

Well, what do you mean by retributive punishment? Are you referring to the death penalty? Personally, I think that the death penalty is just another way to side step responsibility, both as a society and as a human being.

I could elaborate but I'm uncertain to what you refer. Shy

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26-07-2012, 10:59 AM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
So free will doesn't exist, is this what your saying? We don't have choices because of the influences? Thus, responsibility is hard to determine?

I understand your words but not your standpoint for discussing.
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26-07-2012, 11:13 AM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 10:43 AM)kim Wrote:  
(26-07-2012 08:57 AM)Theofrak Wrote:  What is difficult to accept, however, is the concept of retributive punishment, which only makes sense in a context of complete and unfettered free will. Even religious conservatives, in a moment of honesty, must agree that this does not exist. To argue otherwise is to ignore all of the psychological and sociological studies, not to mention the latest brain research, that shows our behavior is influenced (I would say controlled) by forces internal and external to each of us.

Well, what do you mean by retributive punishment? Are you referring to the death penalty? Personally, I think that the death penalty is just another way to side step responsibility, both as a society and as a human being.

I could elaborate but I'm uncertain to what you refer. Shy

The death penalty is an example of retributive punishment, but the concept is broader. See this for a dicussion of retributive justice. Modern alternatives to retributive measures include psychiatric imprisonment, restorative justice and transformative justice.

As is probably clear from the OP, I am a determinist. Free will, I believe, is an illusion. Nevertheless, I, like everyone else, proceeds as if we had free will. Determinism is often confused with pre-determinism or fatalism. What it really means is that everything that happens is based on conditions such that, given then, nothing else could happen. This includes my decisions from moment to moment. All of my experiences up to that point, all of the environmental, genetic, social, etc. forces make my decision for me. The "me" in my brain is simply creating a narrative to explain the decisions that my brain, like a computer, was making according to a set of inputs.

Because I believe the universe is deterministic, I believe it is ridiculous to "punish" someone for their acts. Separate them from society, rehabilitate them, whatever, but not punishment.

The gipper's point is the antithesis of this. Society (and presumably everything else but the individual's "free will") is not to blame for crime. Punish the individual because they violated what they knew in their hearts to contradict a universal moral law. This is what I objected to in Reagan's quote.

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26-07-2012, 11:20 AM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
Since we are unable to predict the future with relative accuracy, we are left with reactionary measures as our response to anti-social behavior.

I understand and agree that each individual's behavior is based largely on their experience up to any particular moment in which they are faced with a fork in the road. That is a highly complex and individual mosaic that molds each of our minds. However, until you are able to tell me that an individual mass murderer's actions were based 75% on parents, 20% to a chemical reaction to a drug and 5% to free will, I will side with retributive punishment as an imperfect but best we have kind of system.
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26-07-2012, 01:03 PM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 08:57 AM)Theofrak Wrote:  
[Image: guncontrol.jpg]

In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, there has been a great deal of discussion about individual accountability, societal and genetic influences on behavior, and theories of punishment. This quote by Ronald Reagan typifies the conservative reaction to the idea that a criminal might not be fully responsible for his or her behavior. However, this is really a straw man argument, because people with deterministic leanings do not argue that society is solely responsible for crime. Rather, determinists, materialists, and others who reject dualism believe that human behavior is strongly (or totally) influenced by a environment and heredity. If there is some little "unmoved mover" in our heads that is ultimately responsible for making decisions (and thus creating personal accountability), it must have very little to do in light of the myriad of factors that effect our thought processes.

One can be a determinist and still believe in incarceration and other forms of punishment. For example, it is necessary to separate a criminal from society in order to prevent future crime by the same individual, as well as to deter criminal acts by other individuals.

What is difficult to accept, however, is the concept of retributive punishment, which only makes sense in a context of complete and unfettered free will. Even religious conservatives, in a moment of honesty, must agree that this does not exist. To argue otherwise is to ignore all of the psychological and sociological studies, not to mention the latest brain research, that shows our behavior is influenced (I would say controlled) by forces internal and external to each of us. A good example of this includes the many studies showing the influence of oxytocin on human behavior, particularly in the case of mother/infant interactions.

Link

One can only be a determinist by ignoring quantum mechanics.

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26-07-2012, 01:54 PM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2012 01:30 PM by kim.)
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 11:13 AM)Theofrak Wrote:  I am a determinist. Free will, I believe, is an illusion. Nevertheless, I, like everyone else, proceeds as if we had free will. Determinism is often confused with pre-determinism or fatalism. What it really means is that everything that happens is based on conditions such that, given then, nothing else could happen. This includes my decisions from moment to moment. All of my experiences up to that point, all of the environmental, genetic, social, etc. forces make my decision for me. The "me" in my brain is simply creating a narrative to explain the decisions that my brain, like a computer, was making according to a set of inputs.

Because I believe the universe is deterministic, I believe it is ridiculous to "punish" someone for their acts. Separate them from society, rehabilitate them, whatever, but not punishment.

Well, not being any sort of ist... except maybe a humanist... I don't think that free will is an illusion. Yes, there are always chemical imbalances and brain function to deal with, but those effects aren't external. Ultimately, one chooses to act as they wish, given whatever circumstance the moment brings, and appropriate consequence can be fairly meted out, in my opinion.

Take this movie house shooter; suppose he is given a brain scan and is determined to have the markers for psychopathy. I think that separation from society would be punishment for this type of individual; a psychopath who would love the chance to do exactly the same thing again and again.

Killing him is easy enough, but wouldn't really accomplish anything. Due process would only be costly. Killing him wouldn't bring any of his victims back to life. For a psychopath, death might be welcome; with no one to kill, a long life would be a mighty drag. That last statement might be speculative at best; not enough info on psychopathy to know what they desire, really.

Studying him for the rest of his life would certainly further the scientific study of this kind of brain. We might be able to get to a point where we can detect this kind of pattern early on and determine triggers of early behavior. We would know more about their needs and how they differ. The only thing we do know is: there is no such thing as rehabilitation in psychopathy.

As for "punishment"... honestly, to separate one from society may very well be punishment for such a social creature as the human. Charrière's Papillon comes to mind - mostly because it's one of my favorite books so I never miss the chance to mention it but also, it speaks to the very issue of "punishment" both physically and psychologically.

Freedom is power; one is either free to kill or free to die. Denial of freedom seems to be punishment to me. Complete removal from society keeps the population safe and keeps the criminal from his freedom. Society has the power to grant or deny freedom.

Even if it's to kill one another, humans need each other and for this reason, sometimes we must be responsible for each other. That responsibility must include some sort of appropriate and fulfilling reaction as a consequence to abhorrent behavior.

I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person... it's not for everyone, I suppose. It's all I got. Shy

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26-07-2012, 01:58 PM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 01:03 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(26-07-2012 08:57 AM)Theofrak Wrote:  
[Image: guncontrol.jpg]

In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, there has been a great deal of discussion about individual accountability, societal and genetic influences on behavior, and theories of punishment. This quote by Ronald Reagan typifies the conservative reaction to the idea that a criminal might not be fully responsible for his or her behavior. However, this is really a straw man argument, because people with deterministic leanings do not argue that society is solely responsible for crime. Rather, determinists, materialists, and others who reject dualism believe that human behavior is strongly (or totally) influenced by a environment and heredity. If there is some little "unmoved mover" in our heads that is ultimately responsible for making decisions (and thus creating personal accountability), it must have very little to do in light of the myriad of factors that effect our thought processes.

One can be a determinist and still believe in incarceration and other forms of punishment. For example, it is necessary to separate a criminal from society in order to prevent future crime by the same individual, as well as to deter criminal acts by other individuals.

What is difficult to accept, however, is the concept of retributive punishment, which only makes sense in a context of complete and unfettered free will. Even religious conservatives, in a moment of honesty, must agree that this does not exist. To argue otherwise is to ignore all of the psychological and sociological studies, not to mention the latest brain research, that shows our behavior is influenced (I would say controlled) by forces internal and external to each of us. A good example of this includes the many studies showing the influence of oxytocin on human behavior, particularly in the case of mother/infant interactions.

Link

One can only be a determinist by ignoring quantum mechanics.

Ironically, quantum mechanics is one of the best prospects for a genuinely deterministic theory in modern times!

http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0212095

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26-07-2012, 02:09 PM
RE: Determinism and individual accountability
(26-07-2012 01:58 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  
(26-07-2012 01:03 PM)Chas Wrote:  One can only be a determinist by ignoring quantum mechanics.

Ironically, quantum mechanics is one of the best prospects for a genuinely deterministic theory in modern times!

http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0212095

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