A to correspond to our world. Taylor’s conclusion
A system of therapy often works better in the long run. If the therapy is successful, the former criminal is rid of the old desire to steal. At which point he ceases to be a criminal. For a really healthy society to exist, both forms must be in use. Even Skinner admits that punishment is affective in the short term. Punishment will keep the criminal from steeling again for a short time. Meanwhile, before he has a chance to steal again, a system of therapy may help him to overcome that urge. Alone, therapy will allow the criminal to continue in crime until he is changed.
But punishment will never ultimately change him. And therefore, given the choice, I would choose to live in a society where a balance could be found between both punishment and effective therapy. 2. Taylor writes: The only conception of action that accords with our data is one according to which people . . . are self-determining beings. What does Taylor mean by this? What is his evidence for it? What are the implications of this view? Taylor acknowledges that there are valid and reasonable arguments for both determinism and a free will.
And yet the two arguments result in opposing conclusions, so the task is then to determine which is of the two is most likely and best seems to correspond to our world. Taylor’s conclusion is that humans are, in fact, able to sometimes determine their own actions. Taylor first notes that in our daily lives, we simply take for granted that we are determining our actions some of the time. We deliberate every day about decisions we must make. And we believe that we must come to a conclusion to decide our course of action. We can not deliberate over issues unless we believe that it is up to us to determine what we will do.
Every day we act and think as though it really was within our ability to determine our own actions. We act as though we are free. And our freedom must not exist merely in the absence of forces or obstacles to an action, but in the ability to chose either one course of action or another and to put the conclusions of our deliberation into action. In holding to the theory of determinism some have said that voluntary actions are still possible within the theory, because the causes of the actions are internal, and therefore one’s actions are self-determined.
However, Taylor argues that this only means that one could have done differently if one’s internal motivations were different, which is merely saying that different actions would have been possible in a different situation, but not that different actions were possible with the exact same internal impulses. Therefore, actions are simply determined by the internal forces of an individual, which still means they are not free to choose what they will. In the end, there is no freedom in this view.
And yet to take the other extreme in defense of free will, to believe that there is no other cause behind our actions, is to ultimately believe in a world of chaos and completely random behavior. Taylor, on the other hand, argues that human actions can be freely chosen. In order to qualify as having been done freely, an action must have been caused by the agent who performed it, and that the conditions preceding this action were not enough to have it accomplished. In order for this action to be free and rational the agent must have done the action for a reason, but this reason could not itself have been the cause of the action.
This theory above all the previous, provides a solution which is compatible with the daily way in which we conduct our lives. Taylor’s theory, however, implies several different things from the others. It requires that a person is more than simply a collection of his physical parts, but that he can also himself be the cause of his own actions. It also implies that substance (such as a spirit), rather than just an event, can be the cause of an action, even without an causal preceding event.
Though this theory does create some notable difficulties, they are not particularly any more troublesome than those which the theories of fatalism or freedom will produce. Moreover, Taylor’s theory has the distinct advantage of being pragmatic, because it is most in accord with the way we daily live our lives and generally esteem our rationality and freedom, which is more than the alternatives seem to provide. 3. Do you believe that humans sometimes determine their own actions? If not, how do you understand the meaning of moral judgments and the attribution of moral responsibility?
If so, how do you understand this to be possible given our material nature? Yes, I do believe that humans sometimes determine their own actions. Although we are physical beings, I believe that human being are more than simply a sum of their parts. After all, that is what mankind has generally assumed for thousands of years. We have always presumed ourselves to be more than merely physical bodies. Now, that in and of itself is obviously not proof. After all, humans also believed that Earth was the center of the universe for thousands of years. As a race, we have been known to be wrong.
And yet, where could such an universal assumption through the ages have come from? Humans, now and historically, behave as if they believe themselves to determine some of their actions. In order for us to live our lives, we assume that we can in fact deliberate over what we will do, and that the result of our deliberations will be the action that we take. If we really believe that everything we do is determined by natural law, then we are left only with a meaningless existence. We are robbed of any sense of purpose, for not only do we have no intrinsic purpose of existence, but neither do our actions have any purpose.
Our actions simply become the out-workings of the causes and effects ruled by natural law. An honest acknowledgement of such a pointless existence can only logically lead to a desire of suicide. In order to live, we must assume that life has some meaning. Therefore, we must also assume that we are free to give it that meaning. However, simply wishing a thing does not make it so. Yes, it may make the would a much nicer place if we could determine our own actions, but that is only an argument for the case in so far as it is a reasonable theory given that the general behavior of mankind to follows it.
It still might be the case that we only imagine ourselves to be deliberating over issues, and that even the deliberation process itself is determined by physical laws along with our action. The difficulties we run into at this point is our still great ignorance of much of the natural laws that we speak of so often. When it comes right down to it, we don’t really know how the human brain works. If we could explain all the actions of the physical world in terms of the effects of other causes, then maybe we could say that all human behavior is determined.
The problem is that we can not. For in order to explain human actions as the results of chemical reactions of the brain and nervous system, we would have to understand how those things work. Ultimately, that would involve an understanding of the way that atoms and subatomic particles react with one another. But we can not explain these things. We do not even know if we shall ever be able concretely explain the actions of electrons or other subatomic particles. It is entirely possible that we simply can never explain them.
And if we can not explain them, then there is no sure foundation to stand on and say that all is determined. It may very well be that the determining factor is something else entirely that exists within ourselves, our soul or spirit. This may seem to be thoroughly unscientific. And yet, I am not convinced that is necessarily a bad thing. After all, there are many things that science can not adequately explain. We believe in the existence of love, yet love is not most fully or appropriately described by science. Science can not even prove that love exists, in the fullest sense and meaning of the concept.
But we seldom doubt love’s existence on that account. The simple fact that science can not account for a thing may yet be insufficient reason to reject a claim on that basis alone. Science is not omniscient, we must not treat it as if it were. There are many things that exist, such as love, poetry, and beauty, which science does not provide the best explanation of. Therefore, if we come across an issue in which, but for science, the rational explanation is clear, perhaps we should look for the flaw or short-coming in science rather than within ourselves.