Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Philip Swenson

Committee Members

Laura Ekstrom

Claire McKinney


Imagine for instance, in fact for the remainder of this paper, that a certain doctrine turns out to be true: the doctrine of causal determinism. Causal determinism is the view that all events are causally necessitated by prior events. The truth of this doctrine would fundamentally alter life as we know it. How should we react? Do we argue that humans still have free will in the face of determinism? Do we give up the concept of free will completely? Our answers to these questions lead us to the focus of this paper: If determinism turns out to be the true state of the universe, how does this affect the way we assign responsibility to and punish moral agents? I argue that in a causally determined world we can implement a quasi-retributive justice system that assigns responsibility based on guidance control and reconciles punishment based on the duties incurred by offenders. Throughout this paper I discuss the semi-compatibility of free will and determinism, the faults of traditional forms of punishment, specifically retributivism and consequentialism, and my argument for a functional system of assigning responsibility in a causally determined world.