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Afreeism 101

Against Moral Responsibility

. . . and the Damage Done

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One of the central insights of afreeism is that no one is morally responsible for past actions. I have written about afreeism elsewhere (please see Medium articles How to Live Without Guilt and Why I Don’t Believe in Forgiveness), so I am going to give just the bare bones here. Afreeism is an evidence-based philosophy that concludes that there is no free will. Afreeism is based on the idea that all events are caused and that any given event is the result of a complex chain of causation. Humans are not exempt from the laws of physics that govern causation. Every thought, every feeling, every desire, and every action is the result of a complex yet deterministic causal chain involving atoms and molecules and cells and tissue. In the brain, neurons fire and trigger other neurons. This causal chain originated long before any of us were born. As a result, every thought, every feeling, every desire, and every action has been determined. None of us could have done otherwise than what we did. Free will is just an illusion.

Moral Responsibility for Past Actions

Because we could not have done otherwise, because we have no free will, it does not make sense to hold someone morally responsible for past actions. This is something that we know intuitively. Suppose someone is driving a car and a previously undiagnosed brain tumor causes this person to drive recklessly off the road and injure someone. We do not hold that person morally responsible, because that person could not have done otherwise. Afreeism simply understands that all actions are of this sort. They are all caused by the interaction of physical forces both inside the brain and outside, forces that were in play long before the person taking the action was born. We may sometimes be doing what we want to do, but these wants are also determined by a chain of causation. Therefore, no one is morally responsible for past actions.

Punishment

A lack of moral responsibility for past actions does not imply that there should be no consequences for past actions. Afreeism depends on the notion of causation, that everything is caused. This means that actions can be deterred and thus punishment can be based on deterrence. It just should not be based on…

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Stephen Marks

Economist, teacher, student, dabbler in philosophy, ideas, music, and sport. Knows nothing for sure or maybe at all.