It is sometimes argued that the freedom we feel as though we possess is merely apparent. Therefore, when we make ethical choices the actions we take have already been decided. A hard determinist would argue that all actions are explicable in terms of their causes, and are therefore inevitable. Whereas a soft determinist would argue that determinism may be true but humans still have a degree of choice. However, a totally different view, is the one of a libertarian, they believe that we are in total control of what actions we take and are therefore responsible for our own choices.
If you are absolutely free to do whatever you choose, you can be held morally responsible for your actions. On the other hand are you ever free? A common form of defence offered by someone who has been accused of doing something, which is deemed immoral, is that he or she was not free to choose to do anything else. You may, for instance, find yourself acting as an agent, following rules that have been enforced by an individual, culture or even society. In this case you are conscious of what you are doing, but your actions are likely to be considered from a moral point of view only to the extent that you are deemed to be free to accept, reject or challenge the order you are given, or the function you are expected to perform in society. Thus, for instance, if you obey an order because someone is pointing a gun at your head, the fact that you will be killed if you disobey is a significant factor to be taken into account. Are you free in such circumstances? Another example is that of when people are culturally bound to do such actions that are seen as morally wrong outside the culture, such as female circumcision. You know consciously that it is morally wrong but you follow the rules to avoid punishment. Therefore, you are not free to make a moral choice, because of the values of the culture.
Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry” (Tom Mullen, 2005, p.1). It is argued that free-choice marriages based on love or romance, offer more independence and freedom as compared to arranged marriages where the man and woman are chosen by the parents and so there is pressure and is not so suitable and independent. However, no ...
It is sometimes asked, how free do we actually need to be? If we were completely free of all external causes and conditions, we would never stop to think about what we ‘ought’ to do, because we would never be influenced by anything that might suggest one cause of action rather than another. For instance a professor is very close to finding the cure for cancer but is pregnant, however to go through with the birth would leave her in grave danger. If we ignored these causes then the change of action would be inevitable. However, to make sense of ethics, we need sufficient freedom to act, and take responsibility for our actions, in the context of a finite range of possible courses of action to take.
It is generally accepted that all things are brought about by causes that pre-exist them. If this were not so, anything could happen for no reason, and common sense as well as science would be utterly undermined. We may not actually understand why everything the world is how it is, but we accept that everything is theoretically capable of being understood. Therefore, it can be argued that when making ethical choices it is brought about by other causes that pre-exist them.
A reductionist argues that what we think of as our thoughts are in fact no more than electrical impulses in the brain. Our actions are merely movements occasioned by chemical and electrical activity. Everything is reduced to its simplest physical components. Clearly, if reductionism is correct, then it makes little sense to say that we are free to choose how to act. Therefore, if this is true, taking ethical action such as abortions or genetic engineering is actually decided by brain impulses, therefore, when we feel as thogh we are making our own choices, the freedom we have is only apparent.
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