Oct 192015


This infographic displays some important differences between moral responsibility in the strong and weak sense, and what a lack of free will means for both sides. It suggests where some of the “no free will” and “free will” positions sit in regards to people having the weak and/or strong sense. If you like it, please share it around and link back to this page.

One key factor of importance and one of the reasons I made this infographic was to draw a distinction between these two that compatibilists often tend to blur. They often mention that people can still be morally responsible without displaying the sense they are referring, and when they do display the sense they are referring and it aligns with the weak sense, they almost never mention that people lack the stronger sense. This is problematic in many ways.

For some “Frankfurt-type” compatibilists they sometimes even suggest that someone could be responsible in the strong sense even if they couldn’t have done otherwise (they reject the Principle of Alternate Possibilities – PAP). The hard incompatibilist (free will skeptic) such as myself would, at that point, have a different battle than a mere semantic one, or revealing a concealed point. They actually have an opposing disagreement similar to what they would have with the Libertarian who thought indeterminism granted “strong sense” moral responsibility.

It’s also important to note that the common intuitions of the layperson (majority of people) is that people are morally responsible not merely in the weak sense, but in the strong sense as well. This often leads to retributive actions and policies, larger inequalities that are justified with the notion that some are more or less deserving than others, harmful feelings of anger, guilt, and shame, and other problematic psychologies that cause a whole lot of harms in the world.

Also check out “ROUND 3” which talks about “responsibility” for the Free Will Compatibilism vs. Skepticism – SHOWDOWN as well as this post on the ambiguity of the word “Responsibility”.

If you don’t know why we don’t have the free will that grants “moral” responsibility in the strong sense, check out Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind.

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'Trick Slattery

'Trick Slattery is the author of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. He's an author, philosopher, artist, content creator, and entrepreneur. He has loved and immersed himself in philosophy since he was teenager. It is his first and strongest passion. Throughout the years he has built a philosophy based on analytic logic and critical thinking. Some of the topics he is most interested in are of a controversial variety, but his passion for the topics and their importance drives him to want to express these ideas to others. His other passions include pen and ink line art and digital artwork.

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  5 Responses to “Moral Responsibility (and the Lack of Free Will) – INFOGRAPHIC”

Comments (5)
  1. This is one of the more accessible infographs I have found on this topic. Thank you for making it! Moral responsibility is an interesting topic when faced with the lack of free will and this chart has been very helpful in addressing that.

  2. Humans are animals. We don’t react in a moral sense when a lion kills a gazelle, or an orca kills a seal. Some might ‘feel’ pity, another involuntary emotional state, or some other emotion strong or weak, or some may not. Morality and ethics are constructs of the brain, we neither choose or not choose our reactions to anything. Our thoughts and actions are not our own, thus morality is an illusion, as is our conscience. Like other animals we just do what we do.

    • Humans do act in an ethical sense in that they causally take (intentional) actions for the sake of utility, etc. Where I’d agree with you is that whether we do something ethical or unethical ultimately stems from prior causality that was outside of a person, so we are not morally responsible (in the strong sense referred to in the infographic). Certain types of forward looking consequentialist ethics are, however, compatible with a lack of free will due to determinism – but it does narrow those down. The lack of free will does not equate to ethical nihilism or consciousness eliminativism, but it does have a say over the “moral responsibility” question above. We also need to be careful not to conflate determinism with fatalism.

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