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Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility

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Assignment #2

Course: PHL241H5S

Due date: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

In the article, Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility, Wolf identifies Frankfurt and Watson as representatives of the Deep Self View. The Deep Self View is a concept that was coined by Wolf. In this paper, I will be interpreting Wolf's definition of the Deep Self View, her objections to their version of the view, what she puts in its place and whether or not I am persuaded by her objection. Although, Wolf's version has some shortcomings, I believe that in order to be responsible for our actions, we have to be responsible for ourselves and that self has to be sane.

The Deep Self View (DSV) in my opinion is the concept that an agent is responsible if he or she has the ability to control their actions from their deep self. Wolf mentions Frankfurt and Watson, to illustrate the notion of the DSV. According to Frankfurt, "in order for an agent to have both freedom of action and freedom of the will, that agent must be capable of governing his or her action by first order desires and capable of governing his or her first order desire by second-order desires " (Watson 374). For Frankfurt, moral responsibility implies that you have a second order volition for the first order desire upon which you act. Watson's notion of free agency is similar to Frankfurt; however he makes a distinction between "mere desires " and "value desires". According to Watson, whether an action is free or unfree cannot be based on whether your first order desire is govern by second order desires but rather it has to be based on the quality of their source. As long as your actions are governed by your values or valuational system, the actions are considered to be performed freely and the agent would be held responsible for them. Both Frankfurt and Watson agree that an agent is not only responsible because their action is control by their will, but in addition it is because their will is an expression of character that comes from within them. For Frankfurt, that means that the will must be govern by second order desires and for Watson it means that the will is govern by our values or motivational system. In other words, in order to be responsible for one's action, one must be responsible for the self that performs these actions. So, it's not just the case that their actions are within the control of their wills, but it must also be the case that their wills are within the control of their selves in some deeper sense.

One benefit of the DSV is that it explains our intuitions about responsibility regarding kleptomaniacs, brainwashing and hypnosis. We would not hold individuals under these circumstances responsible because they have a detachment between their deep selves and their wills. Their wills are not governed by their deep selves, but by forces independent and external to them. Lower animals and machines on the other hand, lack deep selves and therefore cannot be responsible. The Deep Self View also responds to the fear of determinism. Determinism tends to assert that one's behaviour/actions are determined by one's desire and one's desire is determined by something else, which would be our own deeper selves. However, a question remains: Who or what is responsible for the deeper self? Frankfurt and Watson anticipated this and left room to say that an agent's deep self may be governed by a still deeper self. For Frankfurt that would mean second order desires are governed by third order desires and so forth. Wolf states that although there might not be no logical limit to the levels of depth a person may have, there must be a practical limit for each individual. No matter how many levels of self there is, the self that reflects on its own reflection can't help but be the product of some determination. The problem is worse if Determinism is false because that would mean that the deep self has no origin. It would act randomly and that cannot be a basis for responsibility. It appears that in order to be responsible, one must be a prime mover unmoved. However, according to Wolf, responsibility is independent of the truth of determinism, whether we are determined or undetermined, we cannot have created our deepest selves, this is impossible.

Wolf introduces the example of Jojo to show that the conditions of responsible agency offered by the deep self-view although they are necessary are not sufficient. In order to satisfy

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