What Is a Reactive Attitude? What Bearing Does It Have on the Problem of Free Will?

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What is a reactive attitude? What bearing does it have on the problem of free will? A theory that has attacked the validity of discussions on freedom in modern philosophy is determinism. In these discussions, questions have arisen as to how the truth or falsity of this theory should affect our lives. In this essay I will discuss the formal implications, illustrated by Peter Strawson, that come about from this. This will mean discussion of our reactive attitudes on: our moral considerations and on our inter-personal relationships with others in general. With this in mind, I will argue in favour of the idea that the truth or falsity of determinism is not of legitimate concern to those seeking a rational justification of our moral practices…show more content…
Before we say more of what I term environmental factors in the latter, there is much more that can be followed on from the former, concerning the agent. When we consider what could alter our reactive judgements on behalf of the agent we happen to be interacting with, examples are needed to emphasize when this is the case. So, for the moment we will consider how the judgements we make in our reactive attitudes are suspended in order to retain a more objective outlook on that person. Strawson presents some examples for how this might be the case, “He’s only a child… He’s a hopeless schizophrenic” Strawson argues that from these examples, “They invite us to view the agent himself in a different light from the light in which we would normally view one who has acted as he has acted.” This is one way in which we can justify, or rather base, our reactive attitudes on that we can consider as alternative factors on our moral considerations and inter-personal relationships. What we can see from these examples, as mentioned before, is that it does not concern our reactive attitudes how the person we are dealing with came to be as he is. Rather, our concern is with how he is, when we form our attitudes and judgements. However, perhaps it is possible to argue that if determinism is proved false, and that the agent concerned is a schizophrenic partly down to some bad choices that he was free to make, then, our attitudes may reflect this.

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