Reading 28. W. T. Stace, The Problem of Morals Outline with Study Questions



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Reading 28. W. T. Stace, The Problem of Morals

Outline with Study Questions
I. Introduction

1 Why does morality require free will?

2. What point does Stace make with his hypothetical example of a dispute about whether human beings exist?
II. The Compatibility of Determinism and Free Will

1. What is the incorrect definition of free acts that has led philosophers to conclude that determinism is inconsistent with free will?

2. What is the proper criterion for determining whether a definition is correct?

3. What feature is present in Stace’s examples of acts that are called free but absent from his examples of acts that are called unfree?

4. What is Stace’s definition of a free act? of an unfree act?

5. Why is free will compatible with determinism?


III. Answers to Objections

1. What is Stace’s answer to the objection that some actions do not fit neatly into his “free” and “unfree” categories?

2. What is Stace’s answer to the objection that free will is incompatible with predictability?
IV. The Compatibility of Determinism and Moral Responsibility

1. What are the two legitimate justifications for administering punishment? How is determinism compatible with each one?

2. Why would moral responsibility disappear without determinism?

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. Does moral responsibility require free will?

2. Can common usage be mistaken about the correct meaning of a word?

3. Is an action free if its immediate psychological cause is a neurosis?

4. Is determinism compatible with free will?



5. Would there be no moral responsibility without determinism?
For Further Reading
Ayer, A. J. “Freedom and Necessity.” Polemic, no. 5 (October 1946): 36–44. Reprinted in Ayer’s Philosophical Essays. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1954.
Ayer argues that determinism is compatible with free will and moral responsibility because the opposite of determinism is constraint rather than causality.
Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In Hume’s Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals. 3d ed. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, revised by P. H. Nidditch. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1975. 417 pp.
Section 8, “Of Liberty and Necessity” (pp. 80–103), contends that, when liberty and necessity are properly understood, it becomes clear that human actions are both free and determined.
Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. An Idealist View of Life. 2d ed. London, England: George Allen & Unwin, 1937. 352 pp.
Chapter 7, “Human Personality and Its Destiny,” contains a section entitled “Karma and Freedom” (pp. 274–81), which argues that the Hindu doctrine of karma (that our actions create a force that affects our destiny) is compatible with human freedom.


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