International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online)

Doing the Right Thing: Determinism, Moral Responsibility, and Agency
Shirley Matile Ogletree

The relations among free will—determinism, moral responsibility, and agency are considered. A deterministic perspective is defined here as an individual’s having only one possible outcome, rather than multiple outcomes, of a decision-making situation; in other words, the person could not have done otherwise. This perspective does not negate moral responsibility or the phenomenological experience of choosing. Even though only one outcome is possible in a decision-making situation, from the perspective of the individual choosing, this ultimate outcome is unknown during the deliberative process. Recent psychological research related to free will, determinism, moral responsibility, and agency is reviewed and critiqued. Free will assessments have been confounded with items assessing moral responsibility and self-control; similarly manipulations to decrease free will also may have decreased agency. Disentangling determinism, moral responsibility, and agency in psychological research would help clarify relations among these concepts in future research.

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