Saturday, June 26, 2010

Suqraati Ethics (part 2): Conditions of freedom and criticisms.

Morality and Freedom:

The idea of personal freedom seems to be essential to morality because it is closely connected with moral praise and blame. We know that Anna deliberately chooses to manipulate Veslovsky and so we blame her for her actions. We say that she is responsible for her behaviour. However, normally we do not praise or blame people and hold them responsible for their actions if we find that they were not free to act as they did- if they were forced to do so by some physical power (like a truth serum that compels me to give up national secrets to a terrorist group) or by some psychological compulsion (like the individual sufffering from paranoid delusions who attacks an innocent stranger that they imagine, is trying to kill them).

What kind of freedom is involved in the moral life? We can distinguish the following:
1) Physical freedom: freedom from physical constraints;
2) Psychological freedom: freedom from internal constraints such as compulsions and delusions;
3) Social freedom: freedom from social (especially legal) constraints;
4) Moral freedom: freedom to choose what is right by oneself and others or to wrong oneself or others;
5) Freedom to do as one pleases: voluntary action with no physical, psychological, social or moral constraints.

Moral freedom normally requires physical freedom- though sometimes, if we are courageous enough, we can resist the evil that others may be trying to force us to do. However, moral freedom always requires some measure of psychological freedom- psychological compulsions like kleptomania may hinder ones capability to make the moral choice. This means that a lack of psychological freedom may destroy moral freedom and moral responsibility.

The notion of moral freedom implies that we can choose otherwise- that the cause of my choosing this course of action is simply my deciding to do so. This view suggests that human beings are the creative originators of their actions. 

Some Criticisms and Discontents of Moral freedom/Socratic ethics: 

Some philosophers - called Determinists - deny that we have the kind of freechoice morality seems to assume. Determinism is the philosophical theory that all choices and actions are caused by environmental and/or inherited factors- that whatever we decide to do is determined by such factors and hence we could not choose otherwise. Human freedom in this view simply means acting without physical constraint. However, one key problem for determinists is this: are we free to accept or reject the determinist view on the basis of arguments for and against it?

Many religious people including Jews, Christians and Muslims, claim that what is morally right and good is what God commands and what is morally wrong and evil is what God forbids. This is called the divine command theory of ethics. The problem with this theory was pointed out by Aflatun (plato). If what is moral is what God commands, this seems to make morality arbitrary- did God's commanding Abraham to kill his most cherished son, make it right? If, on the other hand if God only commands certain action, like honouring parents, then this seems to make morality independant of God. The traditional solution to this problem - known as the Euthyphro Dilemma - is that God only commands what is good because he is perfect goodness in itself. God would never command us to do what is evil because that would contradict his own nature. So there can be no conflict between the Moral Law and God's law- they are one and the same. Whether this makes sense or not is a question in the Philosophy of Religion.

1 comment:

  1. If God is the creator of the universe, wouldn't the creation of evil be in itself an evil act? If so God cannot be 'perfect goodness'. If he is all-powerful, he is 'perfectly free', therefore he should be 'perfectly moral' and so his morality should not be contradictory (kill your kid and stuff). If it does then God is deliberately 'immoral'.

    Of course, this is all assuming he believes in morality for himself. If he doesn't then hes just a plain hypocrite. hahaha

    Good stuff man, although morality and determinism deserves a separate post altogether.