“Britain’s youngest suicide bomber” – some appellation, eh? – Talha Asmal was described as “loving, caring, naive, innocent kind and affable.” I think those who thus praised him perhaps forgot to add “fanatical and murderous.” Now there is an investigation to discover what “caused” him to decide to become a murderer in the employ of Islamic State. There is a great industry in this business of looking for causes and I’m reminded of the case of Andreas Lubitz who committed mass murder by crashing a Germanwings aeroplane into the Alps. There has been a meticulous search for causes in his case too.
How about, in both cases, we were to say that they perpetrated those atrocities because they wanted to? Or have we suddenly become determinists and deny that there is such a faculty as freewill?
Determinism, looking for causes, is a very popular sport among those of a secular, positivistic, scientific disposition. This doctrine allows them to avoid having to take into account entities which they find problematic such as mind and will, moral qualities – or the lack of them.
The trouble with the deterministic view is that it logically entails the conclusion that, if no one is to be blamed for the wrong that they do, then no one can be praised when they do what is right. In short, ethics is abolished. There’s nothing either good or bad, but “causes” make things so.
So what of the Catholic nun who takes the place of a Jewish woman in the queue for the gas chamber? Or the policeman who dives for a second time into the freezing lake to save a child?
If all our actions are caused, then no villain is ever guilty and no hero deserves praise.
The deterministic world is one in which everything that we mean by a human being has been removed.
I have just enjoyed a duck egg on fried bread. I shall now spend the rest of the day trying to work out what “caused” me to eat my breakfast.