If this is not so, then moral judgments are meaningless. We do not pronounce moral judgments upon die acts of birds and animals and natural phenomena because their volitions lack freedom.
Man is the solitary moral being because, like the vegetable and animal kingdom, he is not controlled completely by the external circumstances.
The Darwinian law, survival of the finest, does not apply to human beings. Conditions do not make man, man also shapes the circumstances. It is here that he differs from stones and animals. Herein lays his humanity.
We don’t pronounce judgments’ on the work done by children or insane people because their activities are uncontrolled. It is only adults that we accuse of good or evil, because they have moral consciousness and are free to work.
It is due to this reason that they are responsible for their activities.
In the words of Rahall,
“What does responsibility mean? Etymologically the word signifies the ability to be called upon to answer for an act, with the implication, that if the agent cannot make a satisfactory defense of it, he may justly be punished. We hold that a sane man is responsible for a crime, because it is just to punish him for it the suggestion that determinism undermines the act of responsibility means at bottom that in the determinist’s view punishment should be unjust.”
If man is only a slave of circumstance, then moral concept like good and bad, virtue and vice, merit-demerit, responsibility, etc., do not mean anything.
But What is this Freedom?
Freedom means that a person may do as he wishes. Man has the right to do good or bad, or just what comes to his mind. He is not hindered by the relations of society or the individual. Even God has no authority over him in this connection.
In this way, the meaning generally attributed to freedom is one implying the absence of obstacles. According to this meaning freedom is indeterminism.
Freedom is Self Determinism:
But taking freedom to mean this is fallacious. According to Rashdall,
“Not only is Determinism not inconsistent with responsibility, but it may even be maintained with much force that it is Indeterminism which really undermines responsibility.”
A free act is, according to the Indeterminism, an absolutely new beginning, not springing from or having any necessary connection with the past.
The question may be raised, what is the meaning of holding responsibility for some past act of mine, if that act did not really proceed from and reveal the true nature of the self which I still am? Thus true freedom is self-government and self-control. Freedom means self-determinism or self-control.
It does not mean indeterminism. Every wish of the individual is selected from a number of alternatives by his self. It is only in this understanding that moral responsibility can have any meaning. My voluntary actions express my nature. They spring from myself, thus I am responsible for them.
If, in doing them, I depend upon somebody else then the responsibility is not mine. In the words of Weltan,
“We are responsible for our acts in exact proportion as they express our personalities. In so far as they do not express what we are we are not responsible for them.”
But this does not mean that man is always completely free and acts according to bus nature. Had this been so Aijuna’s anger and fear, being his willful and natural activity, would have been just as right as was his later tendency towards war, and meaningless would have been all the preaching of the Gita.
But if this were to be credited we would have to treat all human activity, good or bad, as free. In this we cannot designate anyone good or bad because the worst type is capable of doing well while the best person may commit the most degrading mistake.
Both Freedom and Control are Needed:
Mackenzie quite correctly says that both freedom and control are essential for morality. As Kant holds, any act is ethical when in it there is free choice from among our conflicting desires.
The moral value of the act is in direct proportion to extent of the conflict the author of Gita has specifically mentioned that often man proceeds in the wrong direction unwillingly due to powers of sex and anger. They can be authoritatively dealt with only by disenchantment, and by practice. Thus, man’s character is the organization of habits which are the result of conscious effort.