"Willing and killing": A philosophical inquiry into the conditions and consequences of violence

Sini Erholtz

Research output: ThesisMaster's thesis


With the use of a freeform content analysis, my main aim is to produce an inquiry on what happens before and after a person commits an act of evil. The inquiry is proceeded via three excursions: contemporary debate on free will, the moral categories of good and evil, and the problem of punishment. The basis for the research comes from a book titled Free Will that is written by a neuroscientist Sam Harris. His arguments about non-existing free and sciencebased moral progression will be used as a premise for the main research question: What is the meaning of punishment if free will doesn’t exist?

Firstly, I take a look on the philosophical base of free will and the problems that lie in its denial. From there, the focus shifts on documentary cinema, The Act of Killing (2012), which embodies a narrative about the moral categories of good and evil. Lastly, punishment is used as conclusive theory to round up the main aim of producing an illustration about the conditions and consequences of violence.

Main results underline the fallacy of purely naturalist theories i.e. is-ought problem and question whether Harris’ acclaim of science being more righteous moral system than religion sounds like a war of beliefs instead of reason overcoming belief. Also, I argue that the conditions of absolute freedom are similar in terms of results as those of a complete lack of freedom and suggest that a status quo under social contract is the best solution for the time being.
Original languageFinnish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoEC publication typeG2 Master's thesis, polytechnic Master's thesis

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