Hard Determinism

December 21, 2016 General Studies

Q: How might a hard determinist justify punishment?.

Before we begin analyzing this question, it is important to first look at the meaning of determinism, what a hard determinist is, and how we define punishment. Determinism is defined as: A thesis that states that if you list all the causally relevant facts pertaining to an event at a given time, these facts uniquely determine what will happen next. A hard determinist believes that determinism is true, and that free will is an illusion. They believe that we do not make choices, but that the actions are caused by the chain of events leading up to the action. Punishment means to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation. If a person commits a crime, then the action of that crime is punishable.

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From the above explanations, it is easy to see how a hard determinist might think punishment makes no sense. A hard determinist would believe that because criminals have no options, they should not be held accountable for their crimes. They do not see any fault in the criminal’s actions, because it was not his choice to commit such a crime. The events in the criminal’s past, arranged in only the exact way they happened, is the evident cause of the misdeed. .

This brings you to the question, “Should the criminal even be punished since all freedom is destroyed by determinism, and all he really could do was therefore to commit the crime?” A typical hard determinist would say no, they should not be punished. This seems to be the most reasonable answer, but punishment could also be argued in favor of by a hard determinist. On the face of it, the complaint looks to be in favor of the criminal, but there is another side to the argument. If the criminal is complaining that he cannot be convicted because freedom is destroyed by determinism, all the judge can do is therefore find him guilty and sentence him. So, if all human action is determined, the action of punishing criminals is determined just as much as the action of committing crimes!.


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