A Popular Argument on Free Will and Moral Responsibility

I encounter this argument very commonly from people amidst conversations:
"If free will does not exist, it implies that we cannot hold criminals morally responsible for their crimes."

However, despite the appeal, the argument is self-defeating. The argument supposes that we have some sort of a choice in holding criminals morally responsible; that we could choose not to hold them responsible if we so decided, and yet it denies this same agency to the criminals. A criminal could not have done otherwise in committing a crime, but we can do otherwise by not judging them?

As obvious, the relationship between free will and moral responsibility is of more philosophical subtlety than this popular argument can capture.

Comments