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Fear of Determinism and Nihilism Liz Beck, Amber Hager, Erica Olsen.

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Presentation on theme: "Fear of Determinism and Nihilism Liz Beck, Amber Hager, Erica Olsen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Fear of Determinism and Nihilism Liz Beck, Amber Hager, Erica Olsen

2 Common Fears of Determinism Existential anxiety: fear that we are not in control of our own choices Lack of personal responsibility (freewill): when actions are attributed to a person’s brain, genes or evolutionary history, we no longer hold the individual accountable

3 Existential Anxiety It is our genes that decide how we behave There would be no need for morality because we would not be making a decision between right and wrong Yet, we know that we make decisions based on information we gather from our senses, so not all behavior can be predetermined

4 Personal Responsibility and Freewill Why does biology threaten both? – We blame people for poor decisions only when they intended the consequences and could have chosen otherwise – If genes or evolution causes people to make poor decisions we cannot hold them responsible – Biology of human nature would mean more and more people are blameless Example: A murder had no control over his actions because it is found that he has a shrunken amygdala.

5 Utterly freewill also makes a person blameless If people had absolute free will, they could not be held responsible for their actions because they would not be deterred by the threat of punishment People would be unaffected by moral and legal codes because they would do whatever they wanted

6 Environmental Determinism The most recent excuse for bad behavior has been environmental determinism not biological determinism – Example: the abuse excuse, the Twinkie defense, media violence, rock lyrics, and different cultural mores Something is wrong with society which causes bad behavior

7 Reasoning behind holding a person responsible To deter the person from committing similar acts in the future To deter others from committing similar acts Our need to punish may come from the idea of “Just deserts” or the need to retaliate – Example: Will save someone on death row if they try to commit suicide, just to kill him later to enforce justice

8 Two Fallacies About the Sciences of Human Nature Biological explanations corrode responsibility in a way that environmental explanations do not Causal explanations (both biological and environmental) corrode responsibility in a way that belief in freewill or a soul does not

9 Fear of Nihilism It is feared that a biological explanation of the mind will strip our lives of meaning and purpose If everything is simply a biological event then what is the reason for living?

10 Two Versions Religious- a materialistic view of the mind strips people from “the spiritual soul” – Evolution stops at the soul because the soul is created by God alone Secular- biology takes away the values and feelings we cherish most – Example: We only love our children because oxytocin compels us to protect our genetic investment

11 Has Morality Evolved? Our brain has evolved to be able to think in certain ways (abstractions) Moral Realism- right and wrong exist and they have an inherent logical argument – Example: Having a “gut feeling” or intuition

12 Sciences of Human Nature Do Not Undermine Human Values It is incorrect to say that people are responsible for their actions only because the causes of those actions are mysterious It is incorrect to say that our motives are meaningful in a personal sense only because they are inexplicable in a biological sense

13 Critical Review Interesting Points and Agreements 1) By holding people accountable for their actions, you deter them from repeating offensives in the future. 2) The fear that the there is only a biological explanation for the mind, which would take away responsibility, meaning, and purpose from our lives. 3) From psychology, we have learned that parts of our experiences may just be artifacts of how information is processed in our brains.

14 Critical Review (cont.) Disagreements 1) Do we really only blame people that intended to cause harm? 2) Has morality really evolved or has societal values just changed? 3) Having a soul that outlives the body devalues the life we live while on earth.

15 Any Questions?

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