Ethical Responsibility is an abstract value, almost moralistic in nature, and is such that requires careful if not, critical analysis of premises and conclusions. It is my belief that I cannot make a verdict on the three major texts, without fully studying all the books and texts Augustine, Plato and Mark has written. So rather than saying that the authors have similar views on ethical responsibility, I will say, similar to Plato’s statement in the Apology – “I cannot convince you of that – for we had a short conversation only…” – that these texts have more similarities than differences.
In “City of God”, Augustine started to discuss his position by debunking Cicero’s arguments as regards divination or foreknowledge. He says that Cicero must have feared the fact that if there is a Supreme Being who knows what will happen (or if foreknowledge is possible), then people must be simply following what has been laid before them before they were born (thus, free will can’t exist).
He asserts on the other hand, that free will can exist even if God has foreknowledge of what is to happen. He said, “that there is a certain order of things of things foreknown by God” and further interprets that God being the first cause and creator, has infallible knowledge of what has, is and will, that is of no limits or boundaries and thus, includes everything conceivable and inconceivable for the human mind and all that is known and unknown.
He said, “…though there is for God a certain order of all causes, there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills, for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God, and is embraced by His foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human action; and He who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those cause not have been ignorant of our wills.
” By this, he explains that the good will – what we call, free will or human will, is simply a limited power granted by God, and such being the case, allows us to choose what we shall do, not because God has already intervened the decision we shall make but because God knows all the possibilities (and non-possibilities) there can ever be.
In a similar way, in “Apology”, Plato attempts to convince the “jury” that his teaching and practicing philosophy is part of God’s design. He narrated that the reason why he has been charged of many accusations is because Chaeperephon was advised by an oracle (a Pythian prophetess), “there was no one man wiser” than Plato – and to this, he explained, “God only is wise; and in this oracle, he means to say the wisdom of men is little or nothing.
” Furthermore, he adds, “And so I go my way, obedient to the God and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then the vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise…” In spite of this “obedience”, he claims that it is a decision – a nature of will he has chosen to follow rather than a result of pre-destined opportune compelling a series of behaviors (or causes), he said, “The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything…” Like Augustine, he stresses that God’s existence and foreknowledge do not in any way dictate his actions but rather, echoes that what he can do is according to God’s will and his participation in such design is but to choose how he shall will it. As Augustine puts it, “we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it. ”
The philosophy of Mark is harder to pinpoint for his is an account of Jesus’ life but I shall try to hold the same premise, that his writing is more similar than different from Augustine’s City of God. Mark started his gospel with the prophecy of He who is to come, “As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. ” (Mark 1:2) By such, he accepts that God has foreknowledge of what is to come. Furthermore, In Mark 16: 12-13, he narrates how Jesus explained to the disciples that Elijah came as it was foretold and “and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.
” At first glance, it will appear that free will doesn’t exist and that Jesus is simply following a pre-destined life. I think otherwise, the line in Mark 16:34, where Jesus asked God why he was forsaken, in my understanding proves that Jesus, although divine, is human and his choices – his good will has led him to the cross. To utter these words mean to ask why it must happen, and as Augustine puts it, “Wherefore our wills also have just as so much power as God willed and foreknew that they should have; and therefore whatever power they have, they have it within most certain limits; and whatever they are to do, they are most assuredly to do, He whose foreknowledge is infallible foreknew that they would have the power to do it, and would do it. ”
Now, why is it important to set the similarities of the points as regards the will of God and the will of man when we talk of ethical responsibility? This is because it is important to distinguish how human will becomes part of a larger picture that God has designed. It is only by faith that human will becomes good and only from this can one dwell on the discussion of ethical responsibility. Good and bad – or morality, has always been a subject for debate and that was why, I have to start with the fact that the three philosophers believe in God and is able to acknowledge the existence of human will, at the same time. Augustine ultimately draws that since all of us are from God who is good, all our actions should also be good.
On the other hand, because we have human will, we may choose to do otherwise, such is the case of Eve in the Garden of Eden, such is the case for human suffering, such is the case for human desires and all others that constitute a variation of goodness which is in a manner of speaking, not good or right, for it is no longer from God. Plato, in a similar way, projects that although he was proven guilty and sentenced to death for his actions, the decisions he had chosen for his lifetime are going to remain the decisions he will choose over and over, for what he is after is not the human wisdom he has been accused of from the beginning, but rather, the “good will” to direct his life and the life of others.
Mark shows this by means of the parables Jesus has told them. In Mark 4: 3-2, the parable of the sower, it can be deduced that those who choose to hear the good news of Lord (or the word of God) can only produce good actions and such if Satan influences them and they choose otherwise, it does not make them evil, but the action evil. By this, it is fitting to note that we are accountable for our actions, for only our human will can dictate our decisions or intentions. Whereby the hand of God is at play, we can only live in accordance to our faith – that we are living the good life and are pursuing the ethereal city of God and not the other way towards the ephemeral city of man.