Advanced Search

It has been said that if there is human freedom, then we are responsible for our

It has been said that if there is human freedom, then we are responsible for our actions. By this, it seems natural to suppose that "given that there is no human freedom (let's just suppose for the sake of argument) then it would follow that we are not responsible for our actions." But this seems an instance of what is called the "fallacy of denying the antecedent". Is this really an instance of the fallacy or is it an exemption to the case because personally I don't see any error in the form of the argument.

In the form you've presented the claims, there would be a fallacy of denying the antecedent. If free, then responsible. Not free. So, not responsible.

But I don't think philosophers typically agree with the conditional claim, which says that having free will (or doing A freely) is sufficient for moral responsibility (or being responsible for A). And we should not agree with it. After all, I might freely decide to back my car out of the driveway and in doing so run over the sleeping cat I could not be expected to have seen. If so, I do not seem to be responsible (blameworthy) for killing the cat. There might be ways to fix up the terms, but there is likely an epistemic condition (a justified belief requirement) for responsibility that goes beyond the free will (or control) condition.

However, it is more plausible to say that moral responsibility (being responsible for A) requires free will (that one did A freely, or did some earlier action freely that one should have known would lead to A). So, if I am responsible for killing the cat, I must have free will and must have exercised it in such a way that led to my cat killing.

Suppose we accept: If one is responsible, then one has free will.

Then, by modus tollens (or denying the consequent--i.e., saying we lack free will), we validly conclude that one in not responsible.

Some people suggest that it is so implausible (and/or costly) to assert that humans are never ever responsible for anything at all (e.g., that no one deserves blame for anything) that we have good reason to question any argument (or premises) that concludes that no one has free will.

In the form you've presented the claims, there would be a fallacy of denying the antecedent. If free, then responsible. Not free. So, not responsible. But I don't think philosophers typically agree with the conditional claim, which says that having free will (or doing A freely) is sufficient for moral responsibility (or being responsible for A). And we should not agree with it. After all, I might freely decide to back my car out of the driveway and in doing so run over the sleeping cat I could not be expected to have seen. If so, I do not seem to be responsible (blameworthy) for killing the cat. There might be ways to fix up the terms, but there is likely an epistemic condition (a justified belief requirement) for responsibility that goes beyond the free will (or control) condition. However, it is more plausible to say that moral responsibility (being responsible for A) requires free will (that one did A freely, or did some earlier action freely that one should have known would lead to...

Is this a valid argument? If not, what is the fallacy committed?

Is this a valid argument? If not, what is the fallacy committed? (1) A hypocritical agent is one that says one thing, but does another. (2) The government kills people. (Through wars, the death penalty, etc.) (3) The government tells us not to kill. (By making it a law to not murder. Murder is a form of killing, thus making it a law to not murder is a form of making it a law to not kill.) __________________________________________________ Therefore, (4) The government is hypocritical.

I think your argument is logically valid--that is, IF the premises were true, then the conclusion would be true. And I don't think it commits any formal or informal fallacies (except perhaps equivocation in the sense I'll explain shortly).

The problem is that it is unsound, because it has at least one false premise; hence the conclusion is not "made true" by the premises. Premise 3 is false. The government does not tell us not to kill no matter what. As you point out, it tells us not to break specific laws against specific types of killing. Typically, citizens are not breaking the law (and are morally justified) in killing in self-defense or to protect others from an immediate and deadly threat. And (legal) killing in war and use of the death penalty (where it is legal) are also not forms of killing the government tells us not to commit.

Now, we may have reasons to think that some or even all killing in war is morally problematic and even more reasons to think the death penalty is morally wrong. And we have greatly narrowed the scope of such legalized killings over time (in the U.S. and even more so, in other industrialized nations, most of which, for instance, have made the death penalty illegal). And we may believe that it is hypocritical to say some killing is OK but not others (though almost no one, perhaps Jesus excluded, suggests that you cannot kill, if necessary, in self-defense). But I don't think that the government is "saying one thing but doing another" in these cases, because the government, just like most of us, does not treat all killings as the same thing (hence the equivocation in the use of "killing").

I think your argument is logically valid--that is, IF the premises were true, then the conclusion would be true. And I don't think it commits any formal or informal fallacies (except perhaps equivocation in the sense I'll explain shortly). The problem is that it is unsound , because it has at least one false premise; hence the conclusion is not "made true" by the premises. Premise 3 is false. The government does not tell us not to kill no matter what . As you point out, it tells us not to break specific laws against specific types of killing. Typically, citizens are not breaking the law (and are morally justified) in killing in self-defense or to protect others from an immediate and deadly threat. And (legal) killing in war and use of the death penalty (where it is legal) are also not forms of killing the government tells us not to commit. Now, we may have reasons to think that some or even all killing in war is morally problematic and even more reasons to think the death penalty is...

Hi.

Hi. Take the following syllogism : John believes that green people should be killed. Mushmush is a green person, a neighbour of John. ====================== Thus, John believes that Mushmush should be killed. Formally, the argument seems valid. However, in reality it doesn't work. A persona can believe that all people with quality X should be killed, but not think it about a specific person he knows. So is there a logical contradiction here? What happens? Thank you, Sam

This is a nice case of what can go wrong when you (i.e., I) do philosophy too quickly! As Richard charitably suggests, (I think) I was reading the argument (too quickly) to say:

1. John believes that all green people should be killed, and

2. John believes that Mushmush is a green person,

3. Thus, John believes that Mushmush should be killed.

Mitch is right that the original question left "John believes" out of premise 2, so it's clearly not formally valid: 1 could be true, but if John does not believe Mushmush is green (even though he is), then clearly 3 would not follow.

With premise 2 written as here, with "John believes," then it looks much "closer to valid" but "valid" is not like horseshoes or hand grenades, so close does not count. It's hard to see how John could miss the inference, but perhaps he is like some racists in literature who sincerely hold universal derogatory beliefs about another race and sincerely reject that belief about their friend or neighbor who they know is a member of that race (or do they actually reject the universal claim--making an exception for their friend--or do they actually reject that their friend is a member of that race?).

Or maybe, being even more charitable to my former self, I was reading the argument like this:

John believes that: (1) all green people should be killed and (2) Mushmush is a green person, so (3) Mushmush should be killed.

That is, John believes a valid argument. But I think that I doubt that I believed that...

This is a nice case of what can go wrong when you (i.e., I) do philosophy too quickly! As Richard charitably suggests, (I think) I was reading the argument (too quickly) to say: 1. John believes that all green people should be killed, and 2. John believes that Mushmush is a green person, 3. Thus, John believes that Mushmush should be killed. Mitch is right that the original question left "John believes" out of premise 2, so it's clearly not formally valid: 1 could be true, but if John does not believe Mushmush is green (even though he is), then clearly 3 would not follow. With premise 2 written as here, with "John believes," then it looks much "closer to valid" but "valid" is not like horseshoes or hand grenades, so close does not count. It's hard to see how John could miss the inference, but perhaps he is like some racists in literature who sincerely hold universal derogatory beliefs about another race and sincerely reject that belief about their friend or neighbor who they...

The syllogism is still valid (i.e., if the two premises were true, the conclusion would have to be true). But you have just found a case (Mushmush) that falsifies the first premise. It turns out John does not really believe that all green people should be killed, but he believes (at least) one green person (Mushmush) should not be killed. Good for logic and good for Mushmush!