Thursday, March 24, 2011
The following article is taken from the electronic edition of the New York Times:
By JOHN TIERNEY
Published: March 21, 2011
"Suppose that Mark and Bill live in a deterministic universe. Everything that happens this morning — like Mark’s decision to wear a blue shirt, or Bill’s latest attempt to comb over his bald spot — is completely caused by whatever happened before it.
"If you recreated this universe starting with the Big Bang and let all events proceed exactly the same way until this same morning, then the blue shirt is as inevitable as the comb-over.
"Now for questions from experimental philosophers:
"1) In this deterministic universe, is it possible for a person to be fully morally responsible for his actions?
"2) This year, as he has often done in the past, Mark arranges to cheat on his taxes. Is he fully morally responsible for his actions?
"3) Bill falls in love with his secretary, and he decides that the only way to be with her is to murder his wife and three children. Before leaving on a trip, he arranges for them to be killed while he is away. Is Bill fully morally responsible for his actions?
"To a classic philosopher, these are just three versions of the same question about free will. But to the new breed of philosophers who test people’s responses to concepts like determinism, there are crucial differences, as Shaun Nichols explains in the current issue of Science....
To view the remainder of the article, click here.
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