Wednesday, 4 March 2015

On Personal Responsibility.

This is troubling me a lot lately, and by an odd coincidence it came up in a conversation tonight:

We’re told that each of us is a product of two factors: genetic makeup and environmental conditioning, otherwise known as nature and nurture. If that is the case, how can any of us be responsible for our actions? If I have criminal tendencies, or am prone to doing other bad things, how can you blame me? That’s how I’m made, isn’t it?

‘Ah,’ you might say, ‘but you have free will. You can see that you’re wrong and make the effort to change.’

Can I? Let’s suppose – as is likely – I’m genetically or environmentally conditioned to see nothing wrong in how I am. And even if I do recognise that I’m a bad person, suppose the compulsion that drives me to bad deeds is so strongly conditioned that I’m unable to overcome them. We’re back to the same question.

I sense that each of us must be held accountable for our actions, but is that rational? Is being held accountable the same as being deemed responsible? What’s the answer to this, and who holds it? The psychologists? The philosophers? The religionists?

As I said, this is troubling me a lot lately.

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