Philosophy is a discipline that encompasses a wide range of topics and approaches to understanding complex ideas and questions. When it comes to writing assignments in philosophy, it is important to adopt an analytical approach and engage critically with the material at hand. In this assignment, we will explore the concept of moral responsibility and its relation to free will and determinism. Specifically, we will analyze the argument put forth by Peter Strawson in his essay “Freedom and Resentment.” This essay is a seminal work in moral philosophy and has sparked extensive debate and discussion in the field.
Brief overview of Peter Strawson’s argument:
In his essay “Freedom and Resentment,” Strawson explores the nature of moral responsibility and its connection to our emotional reactions and attitudes towards others. He begins by acknowledging the philosophical debate between determinism and free will, and the implications that each stance has on moral responsibility. Determinism suggests that all actions and events are causally determined by prior conditions, while free will posits that individuals have the ability to act independently of causal constraints.
Strawson argues that this debate, in the context of moral responsibility, is somewhat misplaced. He claims that the concept of moral responsibility is primarily shaped by our interpersonal relationships and attitudes, rather than metaphysical considerations. According to Strawson, our emotional reactions and attitudes, such as resentment, gratitude, and forgiveness, play a crucial role in establishing moral responsibility.
Strawson distinguishes between two types of individuals: the “reactive” person and the “objective” person. Reactive individuals have a natural disposition towards moral and emotional reactions, while objective individuals tend to adopt a detached perspective and evaluate actions based on objective criteria. Strawson argues that the reactive stance is the more fundamental and prevalent mode of moral engagement.
Analysis of Strawson’s argument:
Strawson’s argument challenges traditional philosophical positions by suggesting that moral responsibility should be understood in terms of our interpersonal relationships and attitudes, rather than just metaphysical notions of free will and determinism. This perspective highlights the crucial role emotions play in moral accountability, as our reactions to others’ actions shape our own judgments of right and wrong.
One of the key strengths of Strawson’s argument lies in his emphasis on the social nature of moral responsibility. He contends that holding others morally responsible is deeply ingrained in our social interactions and is essential for maintaining social order and cohesion. By highlighting the significance of emotions such as resentment, gratitude, and forgiveness, Strawson demonstrates how these emotional responses shape our understanding of moral responsibility.
Furthermore, Strawson’s focus on the reactive perspective challenges the ideal of objectivity in moral judgment. He argues that it is unrealistic and perhaps even undesirable to expect individuals to adopt a purely objective stance when assessing moral responsibility. Instead, he suggests that our emotional reactions and attitudes are an integral part of moral judgmen