In order to be legally and morally responsible for your behavior, you must have intentionally performed your action whilst knowing the difference between right and wrong.
For this very reason, there are distinct consequences for the many people and circumstances. It differentiates between murder and manslaughter. Judges have to make judgments about whether children are old enough smart enough to understand the consequences of their actions.
Libertarians agree that some actions are freely chosen while others are causally determined. This makes complete sense to me. We chose to carry out an action — we have free will, but in specific circumstances, our actions are determined by other factors such as upbringing.
But it brings to question, when we don’t have free will are we morally responsible? Should one bear the consequences of manslaughter if it was a complete accident; if said person was walking home to his bed after a long long long day at work with no intention to harm another?
I often conclude that determinists agree that we shouldn’t bear the consequences of our unintentional actions, particularly, genetic determinists. After all, we have no control over our genes. There are cases where it has been successful; e.g. using the MAO-A gene or the “warrior gene” in defense of committing aggressive crimes, or stating that you’re kleptomaniac in defense of stealing.
As for me, that doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to justify harm caused to others even if it wasn’t on purpose. I agree that when we have unintentional actions, we are responsible under certain descriptions, not others. However, you are responsible for the slip of your finger the slip of your consciousness that pushed you to push someone off a bridge.
7 thoughts on “Brief: Moral Responsibility”
It’s why on occasion I find the situation of diminished responsibility untenable, why cases such as r v Byrne should be treated as less culpable for a horrendous and evil perversion does not make sense to me.
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The answer for this question relies in The Philosophical History of the Human Species. You will need to know a little bit since the ancient sumerians knowledge till today.
“What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
We still do not know where the urge for truth comes from; for as yet we have heard only of the obligation imposed by society that it should exist: to be truthful means using the customary metaphors – in moral terms, the obligation to lie according to fixed convention, to lie herd-like in a style obligatory for all…” – Nietzsche
The Modern State created by Voltaire and others is just a try. Before the Modern State was the natural selection – the strongest rules against the weak. If today we have laws, lawyers, unions, LGBT civil rights, civil rights for women, legislative and judiciary and executive power and a lot more, all these things were only possible to exist inside of the cage of Modern State. But don’t fool yourself. Behind the power curtain, the old rules still on. If anyone try to mess up with those who are ruling the world hidden using Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings as puppets you are going to be in big trouble. 😀
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Thanks for your insight
Another lawyer in the world? How original.
Just some self-deprecating lawyer humor. You’re writing about the relationship between state of mind and liability, but from a criminal point of view. Yet in general, a person can intend their wrongful action and be held liable for it (called malfeasance), act neglectfully and be held liable for it if the neglect is unreasonable (called misfeasance), or sometimes they can not act at all though they have a duty to act, and thereby be held liable for it (called nonfeasance). Just a very legal topic that you’re addressing. Anyways, I appreciate you following my blog. It’s nice to know someone out there actually reads the thing. Thanks.
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Hahaha, I just noticed which post you’re commenting on