Free Will Related to Freedom of Action & Moral Responsibility

Free will can be defined as the capacity unique to persons that allows us to control our actions. To many philosophers, free will is one of the most difficult questions to answer in metaphysics. Many people who are not involved in answering these questions wonder why people bother pondering or even caring them at all and the main reason is related to free action and moral responsibility. The example that the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy uses to explain free action is ” a woman owns a dog and does not want to walk the dog but knows the dog needs exercise. Even though she really does not want to walk the dog in the cold, she decides that the best decision is to walk the dog.” This is free action; the woman must decide if she is going to walk the dog before she actually walks him. ┬áIf human actions result from the rational capacities of humans, shown in this example, then we see that free action depends on free will – “to say that an agent acted freely is minimally to say that the agent was successful in carrying out a free volition or choice” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). In regards to the relationship between free will and moral responsibility, if an agent does not have free will then the agent is not morally responsible for his/her actions. If a person was forced to steal a car, that person is not morally responsible because it was not an action of free will. The importance of free will is more easily described when relating it to free action and moral responsibility, because the importance becomes more significant.

2 thoughts on “Free Will Related to Freedom of Action & Moral Responsibility

  1. I agree, I think that having a free will and free actions results in increased significance for moral responsibility. Some one choosing what their actions will be defines free will and gives that person the obligation of moral responsibility.

  2. I agree that with free will comes moral responsibility, but I think that we might differ in what we consider to be a forced action and thus what kinds of situation demand moral responsibility. I believe that moral obligation follows if there is any sort of decision involved, even if one is coerced (like in your example of someone being forced to steal a car). What if someone were held at gunpoint at ordered to kill another person? I personally think that the person who pulled the trigger would still be morally responsible because he still made the decision to pull the trigger. If he had literally been forced to pull the trigger because someone physically used his hand to operate the gun, however, then I wouldn’t find him to be morally responsible.

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