The Moral Responsibility in Determinism?

Logical biconditional

Logical biconditional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At a men’s discussion group I get to participate in every now and then, we have started to hammer out some interestings aspects of the free will v. determinism debate. Anyone who knows the debate, knows that it is not as clean cut as the “v” may represent.

But, the question came up about determinism and moral responsibility. Unlike moral influences and free will which suggest the person is still ultimately responsible, I am unsure if it is either logical or moral to place upon a pre-determined individual responsibility for his or her actions. If the person is born a predetermined immoral agent, then his or her actions are simply the result of the processes of the machine.

But, I wanted to argue the other side.

In determinism, the moral responsibility may not lay with the immoral agent, but I believe it does lay with the society as both a moral and legal entity. Therefore, if an immoral agent does what he or she is predisposed to do, it is not their fault; however, the moral society has a responsibility to correct the damage as well as to prevent such actions from occurring again in whatever means they find necessary. For the moral society, they act under the protection of the legal system — therefore, their actions or neither unjust or brutal, but necessary. They alone, after all, have the moral agency.

Thus, it becomes the moral responsibility of the legal society to remove from their midst the immoral agents if they act immorally.

I know I’ve missed something along the way…

Thoughts? As a determinist, are people morally responsible for their actions when they are pre-determined to be immoral?

Enhanced by Zemanta

More science against the notion of Free Will

English: A Taxonomy of Determinisms and Indete...

English: A Taxonomy of Determinisms and Indeterminisms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, I’ve been involved in several discussions related to Free Will and the such. I do not hold to Free Will or Determinism, but lean to a mixture of both. I do not believe in ultimate determinism (yet), as I believe we do have a few options when presented with a decision.

But Free Will is philosophically, logically, scientifically, and theologically impossible. One of the things that fascinates me is the transference of memory via DNA. This corporate and hereditary memory influences our actions.

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.


The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

via Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors – Telegraph.

The notion of a pre-existing influence is what drives me away from Free Will. Whether or not we ultimately assign to this influence “God,” we are influenced by something predating us. For those of us who believe in the (so-called) Big Bang, I would offer a speculation that the emerging of those atoms and energy, etc…, created a nice path to where we are now.

Anyway, I wanted to include the article for future reference and maybe some discussion.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I’m not sure I agree


Define “require”… define “truth.”

For instance, the pastor who died over the weekend because he “had the truth.” The truth for him is in the KJV. He doesn’t rely on humanities or theology, nor on the simple science that if you get bit by a snake you may die, regardless of prayer.

I get the sentiment, that science is not all there is, but surely it can be better expressed than this?

Final Thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?” @BakerAcademic

So I finished reading the book over my vacation. Since I’m still on vacation, I will keep this short. Just a note, this is a collection of thought, not a review of the book.

I found the premise of the book to be interesting. Since my philosophical education stopped at modern philosophy, I was not familiar with postmodern philosophy. So I appreciate that Smith breaks down the “bumper sticker” readings of Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. I even consider this to be one of the greatest strengths of the book.

As for the chapters dealing with the different philosophers’s, I really enjoyed the discussion on Derrida and Lyotard, but found myself losing interest in the discussion on Foucault. Honestly, I can’t say why that was.

I also found the discussion in the final chapter (Applied Radical Orthodoxy) to be hit or miss. There were parts of this final chapter that I found myself agreeing with and there were parts that I thought were harder to get through. 

Overall, I found the book to be informative. Since I had little to no exposure to postmodern philosophy in my undergraduate philosophy courses, Smith gave me some of the background on some of the influential postmodern philosophers.

I am still unsure as to what postmodernism has to offer the church. I do not believe it to be the great monster that some in conservative Christianity has made it out to be. Until this book, my only knowledge of postmodernism has come from Chris Rosebrough, an LCMS blogger/podcaster (Fighting for the Faith). I am looking forward to reading some of the other books in this series.

Initial Thoughts on ‘Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?’ @BakerAcademic

This isn’t going to be a actual book review, but rather will be my thoughts and observations as I read through the book.

I don’t know too much about postmodernism as a philosophy, so I picked up this book to hopefully learn a little more about the postmodermism.

The philosophies of French thinkers Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault form the basis for postmodern thought and are seemingly at odds with the Christian faith. However, James K. A. Smith contends that their ideas have been misinterpreted. In an introduction and four fulsome chapters, Smith unpacks the primary philosophical impulses behind postmodernism, demythologizes its myths, and demonstrates its affinity with core Christian claims. Each of his accessible chapters includes an opening discussion of a recent representative film and a closing “tour” of a postmodern church in case study form–with particular application to the growing “emerging church” conversation.

Why is it that I want to learn more about postmodernism? In my time as a blogger, it has become apparent that most people talking about postmodernism have no idea what they are talking about.

The notion of postmodernism is invoked as both poison and cure within the contemporary church. To some, postmodernity is the bane of Christian faith, the new enemy taking over the role of secular humanism as object and fear and primary target of demonization. Others see postmodernism as a fresh wind of the Spirit sent to revitalize the dry bones of the church. (Location 168-171)

The extreme positions that people take concerning postmodernism amazes me. This is especially true in Lutheranism. On one hand, the ELCA appears to embrace postmodernism, while all other Lutheran denominations demonize it. But I wonder how many people in the church misunderstand postmodernism. Hopefully this book will shed some light on the subject for me. Looking forward to reading it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Is human nature essentially good or bad? Let’s ask babies.

Lesley over on Heretics Anonymous fears there are two Christian Churches divided by fundamental beliefs. Whilst Lesley highlights four beliefs, I want to focus on the following:

On Church views humans as ‘essentially fallen’ whilst the other as ‘essentially good’.

Lesley is entirely correct in this observation. I would posit this difference is a product of theology and that perhaps there is room in the one church for fundamentally different perspectives, but that is another matter.

I used to be in the ‘essentially fallen’ camp derived from a hyper-Calvinistic and somewhat pessimistic view of humanity, but now incorporating and taking on board Catholic teaching, view humans as ‘essentially good’ as a by-product of being made in the image of God.

And it looks like some recent research supports this.

The best way to get under the bonnet of human hard-wiring is to conduct research on those of us with the minimum of cultural influences, and that of course is babies.

At this point I’d like to direct you to a blog post on this issue over on Mind Hacks, detailing a fascinating experiment which indicates babies not only infer motive, but have an in-built preference to towards ‘good motives’.

Chomsky on Science and Postmodernism (PostStructuralism)

Noam is chomping away at postmodernism…

“Paris is the center of the rot…”

Read something here:

“Some of the people in these cults (which is what they look like to me) I’ve met: Foucault (we even have a several-hour discussion, which is in print, and spent quite a few hours in very pleasant conversation, on real issues, and using language that was perfectly comprehensible—he speaking French, me English); Lacan (who I met several times and considered an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan, though his earlier work, pre-cult, was sensible and I’ve discussed it in print); Kristeva (who I met only briefly during the period when she was a fervent Maoist); and others. Many of them I haven’t met, because I am very remote from these circles, by choice, preferring quite different and far broader ones—the kinds where I give talks, have interviews, take part in activities, write dozens of long letters every week, etc. I’ve dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish”

Sounds like a great new interdisciplinary field to work in

It’s called Big History. It is about connecting the dots from the Big Bang until today. Ed posted this on Facebook sometime this week. Thought I’d share. Looks real, real interesting, in a panentheistic kind of way:

As humans, we are inherently interested in understanding our origins. Every culture has creation myths that try to explain how the world and its inhabitants came to be. With the rise of science, especially in the last several centuries, we are now in a much better position to appreciate and understand where we came from. It is a fascinating story that takes us from the beginning of the universe to recent times. To understand the major events and patterns of our origins gives us a much better appreciation of our place in the world today. The story of our origins is multi-layered, essentially a long series of origins, each building on the ones that came before it.

This website project, FROM THE BIG BANG TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB™, has been developed by us (Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth) as a critical component of a long-range and multifaceted project to promote science education and large-scale evolutionary thinking. We are the founders and co-directors of THE STONE AGE INSTITUTE® (, a federally-approved non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to human origins research and science education, and are both Professors of Anthropology and Cognitive Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, as well as founders and co-directors of Indiana University’s Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology (CRAFT). We are also Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Although our primary research focus over the past three decades has been on the origins and development of human technology during the course of human evolution, we also have a keen interest in physics (we own a first edition of Max Planck’s 1897 book Thermodynamik, which established the foundations of quantum mechanics), astronomy and planetary science (we collect meteorites, which have been exhibited in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis), geology, biology, palaeontology, archaeology, and history. We have assembled a personal library of several hundred books on a wide range of topics regarding Deep Time (sometimes called “Big History”), and subscribe to a number of professional journals (including Science and Nature) to keep up with the current state of knowledge in a range of scientific fields.

the Stone Age Institute – From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web – About This Project.

The Law of Non-Contradiction Requires an Epistemological Paradox

Rodney and Jason are engaged in a discussion regarding the so-called law of noncontradiction – that law which states that something cannot be both true and false.

I really don’t want to get into a full blown discussion here on ad homs and the such, but the law of noncontradiction is a paradox because it simply cannot be proved unless you have the law first. Therefore, it is not a law but an unproven postulation… which is defeated by God.

God is both immanent and transcendent. He is both here and not here, true and non-true. God is a contradiction. Further, life itself demolishes noncontradiction. By all rights, life should not exist and yet it does. The true laws which life prove false is rather quite remarkable.

Or, we could talk about the bumblebee.

Is it possible to have rationality without this so-called law? Yes, as some scholars have clearly shown. Dialetheism is possible. Let me show you what I mean.

Two simple, generic statements:

  1. It is raining outside
  2. It is not raining outside

Only one of those can be true under the law of noncontradiction.

Except…. that at some point, it is both raining and not raining. Let us take the physical realm first.

I am sitting in my house. Outside my house is the rest of the world. Somewhere out there it is in fact raining. If we are to restrict the outside to the immediate epistemological area, then and only then can we see the enforcement of the law of noncontradiction; however, we must then conclude that only our qualified epistemological area is the only reality present, presenting us a rather non-pleasant psychotic paradox which is an issue we cannot address here.

Let us consider the metaphysical realm. Immediately outside my home, it is not raining. Yet, it has rained in the past and will rain in the future. Being that Time is an illusion, we are only experiencing our epistemological reality in a temporal state which, in of itself, does not exist. Give that Plato believed that we are living in the cave of shadows and that life is but a mimesis of the Ideal, or rather that, designs above are the real and we the poor reflection. The idea, the frame, then, which exists is real. Therefore, we do know that it will rain once more outside my house, or in my qualified epistemological reality, and if we know that, then it is already raining although we are not experiencing it in our temporality.

I’ll sum this up quickly:

  1. The Law of Noncontradiction Disallows a reality to be true and untrue at the same time
  2. Given the nature of the world and the rest of the cosmos, we can prove that what is true in one approximation is not in another.
  3. To allow, then, noncontradiction is to require that one qualifies his or her epistemological reality into a self-sealing reality which then becomes a paradox in of itself. Therefore,
  4. There is no such thing as the law of noncontradiction unless it is restricted to only a well-defined epistemological reality set by the legislator and thus removes, further, the ability to test the law allowing that the law, as it is untested and thus unverifible, is both true (within the epistemological reality) and false (without the epistemological reality)

I love me some Aristotle and Plato, but if we consider them relevant to Christianity fully, then we should read Aquinas as authority, and if Aquinas, them we should swim the Tiber.