Responsibility: are we really responsible for our actions?

Essay by Jonus010University, Bachelor'sA, December 2002

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Have you ever wondered if the decision that you have just made was the best possible decision for you to make? An agent's relationship between responsibility and his decisions in life are affected by the alternative choices that were not taken as well as the choices that were made. Thomas Nagel believes that an agent's autonomy is always being threatened by the possibility of a viewpoint that is more objective than his own. His view on responsibility is such that in order to place responsibility on an agent, sufficient reflection about alternative choices must be considered. On the other hand, Carl Ginet claims that free will cannot be caused (free will is not determined), but rather that the will is free. He claims that responsibility is a result of the agent's inherent free will to choose and is event specific. Ginet feels that since we are free beings, we are responsible for every decision that we make, but not for the causes of our choices.

This is contrary to Nagel's stance of responsibility. He asserts that in order for an agent to be held responsible for his decisions, the agent must have sufficient knowledge of both subjective and objective viewpoints. Nagel believes that this requires a highly developed view of the self and is very difficult to achieve. Responsibility

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for our actions seems to only stem from the choices that we make, but the decisions that we do not make also affect our degree of responsibility.

Ginet feels that the only two propositions regarding free will are either that the will is caused or that the will is free. He argues that if the will is caused no agent can be held responsible for his decisions. One of Ginet's arguments is that if the will is to be...