The notion of free will is important when deciding whether the government should accept the fine now or later. Free will suggests that human beings are autonomous and are therefore free to decide how to live their lives. This includes decisions, such as John’s, about whether to speed drive or not. However, the governmental officials are human as well and therefore also possess free will. If John is considered a free agent capable of being free than it must also be assumed that government officials, also free agents, are also capable of being free.
One caveat that accompanies free will is moral responsibility. Ultimately, this is what this entire case centers on. Is it right for the government to accept the fine before John commits a speed driving offense? This question will explored further as it relates to free will as well as how it relates to personal identity and mind body ideas. The government does not have the right to accept the fine prior to the speed driving offense. Whether or not it is known that John will speed drive tomorrow is not really the issue in this case.
The issue is that the government should not accept that a person is going to commit a crime and accept a fine for it before it occurs but rather the government should rely on their sense of free will in order to stop the crime from happening in the first place. The capacity for the government to have free will also means that the government has a moral responsibility to society to ensure that John does not speed drive tomorrow. Further, if John is going to disappear forever after he speed drives anyway, is it really necessary to accept the fine and hope that this punishment deters John in the future?
The mind body principle emphasizes that all human beings have a physical body as well as the capacity to think, feel and remember. This idea is connected to the idea of free will because human beings go beyond their biological characteristics to become creatures who want certain things, hate certain things and think about certain things in different ways. Therefore, there is a scientific reason that can explain why John may choose to speed tomorrow just as there is a scientific reason why the government may choose to accept the fine before the crime.
Similarly, there are also internal reasons why these choices may be made that have more to do with feelings and thoughts than biological processes. This is the heart of Descartes famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am. ” In other words, the way that human beings choose to operate and conduct themselves are direct results of the ability to think. This brings up a very important point with regards to punishing John for a future event. Perhaps John will use his mind to decide that his moral responsibility entails his decision to not speed after all.
If John decides that his capacity for free will obligates him to refrain from speeding, then the government would be wrong in their acceptance of a fine before the crime was committed. Finally, philosophical behaviorists believe that human beings rely on their minds to behave in reaction to their physical environment. If this is the case, then John may still change his mind about speeding, but more likely John will go ahead and speed in response to the physical environment that accepted a fine for a future crime.
In other words, John will go ahead and speed because he had already been punished for the crime so nothing was stopping him from doing it. Under personal identity theories, Thomas Reid suggests that just because human beings have the capacity to remember events does not mean that these events happened to them. Further, he suggests that if human beings cannot remember something that happened a week ago, does this mean they have become another person?
This has direct relevance to this case because it can be assumed that if the government knows someone is planning to commit a crime they can get the punishment out of the way before the crime is even committed. This brings up a larger issue. Will punishing humans before they commit a crime truly deter them from that future crime or will it produce a drastic change in society based on the notion that if punishment has already been served then the crime is an accepted part of society?
While it is certainly logical to conclude that punishing someone before the crime occurs may produce a safer society, it is also logical to conclude that this type of justice system will create a crime laden distrustful society. For example, if the government finds out that John will be speeding in order to find his next victim to murder they may lock him in prison before the crime can occur. This will, conceivably, produce a safer society.
However, it will, at the same time, create a society where human beings accept criminal activity provided that punishment is handed down before the crime. Ultimately, the government has no right to punish John for a speeding offense that will occur tomorrow. Personal identity is important here because it provides an outlet for John to make a different decision and obey the posted speed limit after all. In the end, the government could hand down a fine for a future speeding offense, but would this truly deter any future crime?
The most logical answer is no because without punishing the mind of the criminal, then the punishment ultimately means very little. The capacity to have free will means that John is unlikely to change his behavior even if he is punished. Further, just because John will disappear after he speeds does not mean he ceases to exist just because this government can no longer see him. John will continue to exist in another place and his mind will ensure him that if he pays his fine for speeding then that offense will be accepted and he will be welcome to speed whenever he wants to.
According to the idea of free will, the government would be more successful if they were to teach John why he should not speed and provide him with compelling reasons to refrain from doing so. John’s internal human desire to please those in authority would win out thus being more effective in curbing the potential for speeding behavior. Finally, free will does not mean John is allowed to speed nor does it mean that the government can punish John before he speeds. It does mean that John is free to drive wherever and whenever he wants to but the government is free to punish him if he does not obey the rules of the road.
Courtney from Study Moose
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