A2 Culpability Frameworks

Arguments Listed:

Determinism (Newell)

If determinism is true, then we can’t be blamed for our actions and individual culpability is nonsensical.

Brandi Jo Newell (Department of Psychology, Wellesley College). “Can Neuroscience Inform the Free Will Debate?” Indiana Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science 4 (2009) 54-64.

If determinism is true (e.g., if the universe has operated according to set physical laws since the dawn of time and has proceeded forward in the only way possible given the constraints of those laws) then it seems that no one could ever deserve to be punished. After all, we do not blame minors or the mentally ill because we deem that they are not fully in control of their actions and should not be held responsible. Under the assumption of a deterministic universe, we all lack control, and if the only justification for punishment is to give the agent “what’s coming to him,” it is inherently unfair to hold anyone responsible for his or her actions, as agents who lack control should not be punished.