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Philosophy subject - Essay Example

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This question asks me explore many questions some of which are logical and some downright disturbing. All of which are compelling and as such I answer based upon a fact pattern that is tragically a part of our daily living as a society.
"A metropolitan newspaper headlines an article with the words 'Boy Killer Is Doomed Long Before He Is Born,' and then goes on to describe how a twelve-year-old boy has just been sentenced to thirty years in Sing Sing for the murder of a girl; his family background includes drunkenness, divorce, social maladjustment, epilepsy, and paresis…
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Philosophy subject

The question this scenario presents us students with is whether or not this boy is responsible for his actions. There are many philosophers that have very different answers to this troubling question. For purposes of this exam, I focus on Susan Wolf.
Susan Wolf, the author of "Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility," takes Frankfurt's views one step further, combining them with those views of Taylor and Watson. She puts forth the "Deep-Self View"(53), which basically stated, says that there is a deep self, which governs our actions and is influenced by our environment. This deep-self view allows for victims of brainwashing and persons with disorders like kleptomania to not be held responsible for their actions, even though they could have second-order desires about them. The reason for this is that these people's "wills are not governed by their deep selves, but by forces external to and independent from them"(53). Wolf separates desires "determined foreign to oneself from desires which are determined by one's self,"(54) or deep-self. This view allows for some determinism, while also providing a vehicle for a freedom of the will. However, Wolf admits that the deep-self view needs further revision for it to be feasible. The deep-self view would hold someone responsible of their actions every time their deep-self determines a desire not controlled by some external or foreign source. However, Wolf's example of JoJo, the son of a cruel dictator, shows that although JoJo's deep-self may truly want to do what is obviously wrong, he cannot be held responsible for his actions because of his upbringing. This idea is not reconcilable with Wolf's deep-self view at first. However, Wolf adds an addendum to her original hypothesis; namely, that the deep-self view holds true only if the individual is sane. The definition of sanity that Wolf uses the M'Naughten Rule, which states: "a person is sane if (1) he knows what he is doing, and (2) he knows that what he is doing is, as the case may be, right or wrong."(55). If a person were insane, i.e. did not have a grasp of the difference between right and wrong, then they would not be held responsible for their actions. By modifying the deep-self view in this manner, the case of JoJo is reconcilable with the deep-self view in that JoJo does not have an understanding of what is right or wrong, and therefore need not be held responsible for his actions. Wolf then summarizes her view by saying that "in order to be responsible for our actions, the sane deep-self view analyzes what is necessary in order to be responsible for our selves as (1) the ability to evaluate ourselves sensibly and accurately, and (2) the ability to transform ourselves insofar as our evaluation tells us to do so."(57) Thus, Wolf's idea of responsibility is dependent upon our ability to understand the difference between right and wrong and our ability to evaluate and change our deep-selves over time.
When applying Wolf's sane deep-self theory to the case about the twelve year-old killer stated above, Wolf would most likely argue that the boy was responsible for h ... Read More
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