Does responsibility presuppose freedom?

A friend of mine on Facebook posted the following video with the following claim:

No responsibility doesn’t presuppose freedom, but responsibility does presuppose authority.

Here is my initial response, along with the ensuing conversation’s highlights.

It presupposes both actually. Responsibility requires both someone to be held accountable and someone to be held accountable to. Both subsiquiently require a certain amount of freedom to choose. Both to set the standard of responsibility as well as whether to even attempt to live up to the standard set. To negate the freedom of either is to render them an object and not an agent. And objects cannot be responsible or authoritative. Humans aren’t objects, and neither is God.

Why do both [causal agents] require freedom?

They require freedom in order to be considered causal agents. I explained this in my previous note when I talked about how responsibility presupposes that both the one being held accountable and the one to whom we are accountable need to be agents and not objects.

You changed the question entirely to whether you were predestined to do one thing or it was entirely undetermined by any but yourself.1

No, I think your theological presuppositions are getting in the way of your understanding my question and its significance as to the present topic.

You asserted earlier that I am mistaken. Well that implies that I am responsible for presenting accurate information. So my question is whether my mistakenness is my own fault due to my own limited but free choices in what information to pursue and what propositional truth claims to maintain as true or whether I have no free will at all (not absolute freedom mind you, that is a straw man on your part) and thus have no alternative than to be mistaken about my assertions. In the former case responsibility and the subsequent admonition are warranted whereas in the second case responsibility is negated simply because there is nothing I could have done otherwise.

If our responsibility is founded on our freedom, how is it that Jesus Christ is held responsible for our sins instead of us when he did not perpetrate them?

Jesus was held responsible for our sins? That is news to me. I was under the impression that He willingly paid a debt He did not owe. However it is funny that you should bring this up as it lends itself further to the notion that men have limited freedom since their sins are just that, theirs, and not someone else’s. The very notion of sin, like responsibility, necessitate at least enough freedom on the part of the agent charged with sin to have possibly opted to not sin. Otherwise, if you negate any and all freedom whatsoever, or if you redefine will to mean something other than will, you are left with a logical contradiction (not just mystery) in that men sin by necessity and due to a causal determination outside of their own volition.

In the end, I think you understand the correct and logically cohesive argument since you state it quite plainly:
“If I am responsible, then I am free. I am free therefore I am responsible.
Then you give the further proof: If I am causally determined (by some thing other than myself) then I am not responsible, I am responsible therefore I am not causally determined (by some thing other than myself).”

Simply put, yes. This is correct since men are not robots but causal agents capable of making limited but truly free choices.

If responsibility is required then freedom to respond is available. Responsibility is required therefore freedom to respond is available.

Responsibility: definition

Responsible: definition

1 a : liable to be called on to answer b (1) : liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent (2) : being the cause or explanation c : liable to legal review or in case of fault to penalties
2 a : able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations : trustworthy b : able to choose for oneself between right and wrong

So you see. The language of causal agency is etched into the very definition of the words used. So unless you want to take the route of being a pure deconstructionalist, wishing (freely) to remake the English language in your own image (by redefining words as you see fit) then I would consider this topic to be rather simple and resolved purely on account of the necessity of linguistic structures.

Responsibility requires the ability to respond by a causal agent. Causal agency entails some degree of freedom to choose. Or, in this case, “choose between right and wrong”.

To sum it all up. Those who disagree with the notion that responsibility presupposes the freedom to make real, morally significant moral choices are, themselves, mistaken. It is not God or any other outside agent or force that has caused them to be mistaken, their error is wholly their own.

Note, that if a person wants to deny the above paragraph they cannot simply say that I am mistaken since such a claim would, itself, necessitate the limited freedom to be 1. wrong and 2. responsible for correcting that wrong belief. The best someone who wants to deny true causal agency (aka limited free will) and who implicitly wants to affirm causal determinism can say is that I have been predestined according to forces wholly beyond my control (which goes without saying, but I feel the need to be overly specific and verbose here) to believe the way I do. They cannot, however, say that I am wrong in my beliefs. Because no matter how hard they try, they cannot get around the fact that to deny causal agency, which is the core of limited freedom, is to unhinge the whole notion of responsibility by destroying. And no amount of redefining words is enough to save such a wholly illogical and philosophically untenable position.

  1. After a previous response I received the objection that I was mistaken. The quoted comment, then, is in response to my question as to whom was mistaken, me or God. The purpose of this inquiry was to implicate the intuitive nature of limited freedom being asserted here. []
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