- Published: June 5, 2015
Guilt is assigned to offenders who have knowingly committed an unacceptable act. Blaming a person for their crimes stems from the idea that the offender possessed the freedom to decide how to act. This process relies upon deliberating on a variety of alternative actions before acting, a process otherwise known as free will (Kane 5).
While humans perceive free will as a concrete asset that distinguishes us in the world, others contest the existence of free will. Some argue that free will is not a valid concept because, in reality, people are not really free to decide their actions. Instead a person’s actions are determined by a variety of factors comprised of the following categories: physical/causal, psychological, biological, and theological (Free Will). Yet ascertaining these determinants, especially the biological, has proven to be elusive and thus they have been overlooked as evidence from the debate on the validity of free will.
Up until the scientific community’s increased ability to study the brain, the debate between free will and determinism was limited to thought. However in today’s age, the technological advances of neuroscience has afforded scientists with new approaches of investigating the brain and, accordingly, has provided results that indicate our decisions are reflections of the biochemistry of our brain. An upcoming article from Science News presents that results from neuroscientific investigations are giving us new information in which to frame the debate between free will and determinism (Siegfried). Siegfried writes that neuroscientific findings are beginning to wean us off of the idea that free will bestows people with the option of doing what they please and that the complex electrochemical networks in our brains are in fact responsible for the decisions people make.
It appears that as future scientific investigations accumulate findings explaining the thought processes of our brains, the notion of free will and of being the ultimate decider will crumble beneath the evidence of determinism. Once this occurs, free will in turn will be utilized as a euphemism describing the automated processes of the brain. In addition, such future comprehension of “free will” may also provide avenues of influencing the brain through outside intervention. This raises the possibility of governing the thoughts of people, with obvious applications involving the rehabilitation of criminals. In the end it will be up to our judicial system to decide whether or not society should use these methods to enforce a generally accepted notion of “free will”.
Kane, Robert. Free Will. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing, 2001.
“Free Will.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 7 Jan 2002. 23 Nov 2008 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/>.
Siegfried, Tom. “The Decider.” Science News. Vol 174, No 12. 6 Dec 2008. 23 Nov 2008 <http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/38753/title/The_decider>.