UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Freedom and responsibility Baugh, Bruce


This thesis shows the ways in which the concepts of freedom and responsibility are related, and how indeed they illuminate each other. In Part One, it is shown that both are based on a concept of action, and it is thus with an analysis of action that a theory of freedom and responsibility must begin. Actions are first differentiated from events, so that conditions which must obtain from an event to be an action are specified. The concept of responsibility may then be used to illuminate action by showing how excuses indicate ways in which actions can fail. From this analysis, an analysis of action in the full sense emerges, namely, that an action in the full or unqualified sense is that to which no excuses are applicable. Action in the full sense is thus linked to responsibility in the full sense. The analysis of action shows that the breakdown of an action is the loss of control over its effects, and action in the full sense thus obtains where no breakdown occurs. Conscious control over an action is the control of an action's effects, which is the realization of intentions, and the control of intentions, which is what may be analyzed as rationality. Conscious control over an action, or agency, constitutes freedom on the plane of individual action. Thus, from the concept of responsibility emerges a concept of action and of agency which indicates what freedom is. Yet, it is the actual structure of action upon which the action of responsibility rests. The theory of freedom is defined in Part Two against the incompatibilist position that if determinism is true, neither freedom nor responsibility exist. It is shown that causal determinism does not rule out actions being free in the sense required for an individual to be responsible; for them as a theory of action shows that it is not an action's being caused but the nature of its causes which makes it free or unfree. If the action is caused so that it is in the conscious control of the agent, it is free. The rest of Part Two examines moral practices such as praise and blame in light of the limits determinism places on them. It is necessary to show what rational or justifiable grounds there could be for practices such as praising and blaming in any theory of freedom and responsibility. Part Three shows that agency, or control over an action, is extendable over the values upon which actions are based. Control over values is achieved by the individual consciously choosing values in awareness of being responsible for those choices and values. What the Existentialists call "Authenticity" is thus a fuller degree of freedom and of agency. This analysis of authenticity does not focus on how authenticity is a response to a value question posed by nihilism; but on how authenticity is an extension of our regular concepts of freedom and responsibility. It is shown that authenticity, when it is accompanied by full agency (as that notion is developed in Part One) is freedom and responsibility in the highest degree.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.