Freedom and Determinism

“Freedom, Determinism, and the Case for Moral Responsibility: A Look Back at the Murder of Jamie Bulger” begins by telling of the heinous crime that is the centerpiece of this paper. On February 12th 1993, British toddler Jamie Bulger abducted at a local shopping mall in Liverpool, England. Evidence that the two year old was beaten, sexually molested, and clubbed to death with bricks and an iron bar before discarding his body on train tracks. The age of his two assailants, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, ten years old.
Then they begin to explain the difference of opinions on the responsibility of the murderers. One side labels the boys as savages and criminals, while the other argues that they are “victims of broader social, economic, and cultural processes. ” Sparking the question, are we truly responsible for how we act in society? The essay then moves on to the defense of determinism and how it relates to this specific event, stating that, “From a determinist point of view, Jon Venables’s and Robert Thompson’s fate was set even before their birth.
Born to ill-educated, working class parents, the details of the boys’ lives constitute a veritable catalogue of social ills. ” The paper enlightens us on the rough and negative environments that both Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were raised in. Jon’s parents were “unstable and depressed,” and his dad eventually abandoned his abusive mother, himself and his “developmentally challenged” siblings. Thompson was the second youngest of “seven violent and aggressive boys… one of whom was an arsonist and another who was a master thief. His parents were drunks and he witnessed his mother being beaten by his father in many alcoholic driven violent outbursts. The question is raised if Venables and Thompson are morally responsible for the actions leading to the murder of little Jamie. Here is where the paper really dives into the determinist philosphy, stating “the Determinist argument holds that a person’s heredity and environment fix the choice before it is made. ” Using legitimate sources such as “The Delusion of Free Will” by Robert Blatchford and “What Means This Freedom” by John Hospers, the essay presents sound reasoning to the determinist view.

Taking from Blatchford, the point “that teaching is part of our environment and that we act as we have been taught that we ought to act. Thus, though we may act as we choose, we will choose as heredity and environment cause us to choose” John Hospers suggests that one holds no responsible for any of ones actions because actions “grow out of his character, which is shaped and molded and made what it is by influences . . . that were not of his own making or choosing” The paper also presents some arguments against the deterministic view from the free will perspective.
Another essay, “A Brief Defense of Free Will” by Tibor Macha, and his opinion “the fact that some people with bad childhoods turn out to be crooks while others are decent would seem to indicate that people can cause and are responsible for at least some of what they do,” is examined. In “The Problem of Free Will,” W. T. Stace states, “In the case of Jamie Bulger’s murderers, young as they were at the time, the drive to inflict unimaginable pain on the toddler, at the moment they did it, does not seem to have been externally caused. They desired to do it. They were not motivated by any external factor, such as the proverbial gun to the head.
They were morally responsible for their action and thus deserved to be punished. ” While this paper makes a reasonable and knowledgeable argument for us to try to look at crimes like this from a more deterministic view, I have a hard time converting. Being that I am a criminal justice major, I am aware that there are many different theories on why crimes are committed, and not only what should be done to help prevent them from happening again, but what kind of treatment or punishment the perpetrator(s) should receive to more effectively rehabilitate them.
I am one that stands with firm justice on brutal acts like this, regardless of age. Although in a violent and criminalistic environment, the kids were not directly forced to commit such a gruesome act, nor did they ever witness it from their parents. Therefore, in my opinion, the responsibility lies within the kids for their desire to not only torture, but kill.

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