determinism

Do serial killers deserve punishment?

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In a previous post I’ve discussed my view on personhood, I believe we’re purely a bundle of biology (not that that’s a bad thing..) I also believe in determinism, a combination that gives my life very little meaning or hope, but anyway.

Today I watched a documentary on the serial killer Arthur shawcross and not only did it illuminate the absence of any remorse, empathy or guilt Arthur lacked but suggested that he had an ‘abnormality’ in the brain, common in serial killers, or even killers for that matter. Identifying this it was argued that Arthur couldn’t be held responsible because he couldn’t help act in the way he did due to his innate programming, he didn’t chose to have this biological abnormality. Well of course he didn’t because he IS this biological abnormality and therefor he is fully to blame.

But similarly then, caring people, charitable people, loving people, cannot be praised for good deeds because they are programmed that way inclined. I couldn’t commit a murder, so by not I’m no better than Arthur why should I be praised for something I cannot possibly be do anyway?

Ok ok ok contradictions all over the place! I’m saying we are not responsible for anything we do, and therefore punishment and praise are irrelevant.. But really we are fully responsible for everything we do because what we are IS what we do. For example I am a person who happens to obtain a sympathetic mind, Arthur is a person who happens to contain an abnormality in the brain. He is the abnormality and I am the caring brain. There is no ‘me’ or ‘him’ seperate to the entities within my brain. I and my brain, and all contained within my brain are not distinguishable. All are one. So yes, I can fully blaim Arthur.

Determinism vs free will

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Do I really have free will? Did I choose to write this or did billions of previous ‘choices’ I’ve made determine it inevitable that I would? But then my previous choices of course weren’t choices, I mean I wouldn’t have made a blog if I didn’t like writing and I wouldn’t like writing if I hadn’t enjoyed English classes, hmm. Or would i?

The deterministic approach assumes that behaviour is learnt, and our present behaviour is dependent on our previous behaviour, like a domino effect that’s out of your control. ┬áBut let’s explore those ideas a little. Before, during and after any action there are almost infinite connections being made by neurons and chemicals within my brain it is the communication paths and patterns that these neurons make that determines the signal sent to my muscles that determines my ‘conscious’ action I make, that I either truthly or wrongly assume to be my free will. Are we really going to simplify such an immensely complex process down to a few previous behaviours? I mean did neuron B send a signal to neuron x after recieving a signal from neuron T All because I previously sat on my bed? It does seem immensely oversimplified.

At best I’d accept that off course previous actions have an effect on future actions but to not such an extent of innevitability. Due to the infinite actions possible to make but the finite amount of actions previously made it would allow for no progression. A finite number can only ever be a percentage of an infinite number, reducing the chances down to something finite out of something infinite creates an inevitability possibility of minuscule proportions and nothing more than a preference or persuasion to an action but never a determination. Off course I could be wrong, I may change my mind, but as long as I continue to perceive I have free will whether I am dillusional or not, I don’t mind because it makes no difference.