RE: Ethics and free will

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Mon Feb 07 2005 - 17:17:31 MST

--- fudley <> wrote:

> > How in the heck does one decided if people are
> > responsible for their actions and what is
> > that decision based on?
> Itís based on practicality. You may be able to
> explain exactly why a
> person becomes a monster, but that doesn't make them
> one bit less of a
> monster. If a man is chasing me with a bloody ax I
> really don't care
> what his motivation is, beautiful thoughts may be
> going on in his head
> for all I know. He may be doing it because he had
> bad genes, or maybe he
> had a bad environment, or maybe heís doing it for no
> reason at all. I
> don't care, I just want somebody to put a bullet in
> his brain.

It is possible to develop a decent legal system
based on your ideas, John - although you might
not have insanity or youth as a defense.
This approach (never considering circumstances
in any legal case), called legalism, was tried in
China about 1000 years ago, and the results were
so unpopular that the empire was overthrown
after only a few years.

In our legal system, we consider circumstances.
Someone who mugged someone because his children
were hungry would be judged differently from
someone who did it for fun.

A different aspect of this issue:
Ethics are not just for developing law.
Ethics are also a matter for individual consideration.
Qhat sort of person do you want to be?

If you have no theory of ethics other than
social consequences, then how can you have any theory
of individual ethics as something different from
social ethics? And if you don't, aren't you saying
that the only motivation for observing the law is
avoiding negative consequences to yourself?

That is how we model
people in developing laws, but actually only a
few people act that way, and we call them
sociopaths, and our social systems wouldn't
actually work if everyone were like them.

- Phil

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