Home > Free Essays > Philosophy > Freedom Philosophy > Susan Wolf’s Philosophy

Susan Wolf’s Philosophy Analytical Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Jan 11th, 2019

Over the years, and especially in the courts of law, determining whether the defendant is responsible for the crimes committed is responsible, has been under scrutiny for a while now. Philosophers have come up with ways of explaining whether one is responsible or not.

This paper will investigate what some of the philosophers have written about and pay close attention to Susan Wolf’s philosophy. Wolf has introduced the concepts of deep self and sanity regarding responsibility. This paper will explore this notion in a simple manner for any reader to comprehend. The philosophers mentioned here include; Harry Frankfurt, Garry Watson and Charles Taylor and finally Susan Wolf.

Harry Frankfurt says that there exist dissimilarity between liberty of will and choice of deed. He stipulates that, one has freedom of action, or is responsible, only if the freedom to do whatever one wills is present. This means there is a possibility of a person who has freedom of action to be not responsible for his actions.

This might be demonstrated by the fact that the brain washed people have the freedom of choosing their deeds depending on their desires, but are not responsible. According to Frankfurt, such people lack the freedom of free will. Freedom of will can be defined as the liberty to want whatever one wants to want. Frankfurt introduced the first and second order desire as a way of trying to explain his philosophy.

The first order needs are needs of wanting to do something or acquiring something. On the other hand, second order desires can be described as the need to acquire certain desires. Therefore, for one to be said that he has free will, he must be able to control the two levels of desire. However this notion has some pitfalls as it will be demonstrated later.

This view of Frankfurt was supported by Watson in the sense that a person can be held responsible for his deeds if his driving motivation is of a particular type. The major difference between these two philosophers is than Watson differentiates the two levels of desire as simple desires and values of a particular human being.

So, according to Watson, one has free will if he is able to govern his values. On the other hand, the notion of responsibility according to Taylor is different from the other two, but also similar in some ways. Instead of viewing responsibility as the ability to control some level of desire or values, he asserts that responsibility arises from the ability to criticize and analyze oneself.

One thing all the three philosophers agree on is that humans have not been implanted with characters that govern their behavior rather they have the freedom to choose their actions and their deeds. This is because, unlike animals, humans have the ability to re-examine themselves or keep themselves in check.

The idea of deep self has been introduced by Wolf and it goes hand in hand with whatever the above philosophers talked about. According to Wolf, the deep self is than inner part of a human that has the ability to control the desires, values and is responsible for self reflection. In the case of a brainwashed person for example, that person has no connection with the inner self. Therefore, he lacks the ability to control his desires and values and cannot be held responsible for his actions.

This idea of deep self has aroused some questions. Some philosophers are concerned about whom or what controls the inner self. Similarly, there are concerns on whom or what controls the second order desires which govern the first order desires. From a logical sense, it might be safe to conclude that there is a third level of desires or the levels of desires are multiple. However, the idea of infinite levels of desires is difficult to conceive.

Looking back at the idea of inner self, it represents a more satisfactory explanation. According to Wolf, the inner self, has been formulated by the environment and other genetic features but still subjected to reasoning.

The idea that the inner self might be influenced by other factors in which one has no control of does not hold much water since every action is thought out. Humans have the ability to figure out the results and consequences of their actions. They also have the ability to make changes on themselves if they wish to. Therefore, as long as a person is regarded as normal or sane, he is responsible for his action

The concept of being normal or sane brings about another aspect of responsibility. Wolf has given an example of a young man called Jojo, who is a son of a ruthless ruler and dictator. Jojo has been brought up beside his father and has adopted his qualities by watching everything he does. Later Jojo becomes the ruler and follows his father’s ways. He is involved in ruthless killings and unfair treatment of his citizens.

His both levels of desires are to be a ruthless dictator, also his inner self ‘tells’ him that he is doing the right thing. Despite of that, some people may agree that Jojo cannot be held responsible because he is a mere product of an evil father. The deepest self that he posse is not his own choice. However, that line of thought may lead to the conclusion that humans are not responsible. Also, it means that actual responsibility cannot be achieved by human beings. In the end a person will be responsible if one is sane.

Wolf has managed to link sanity with free will and responsibility. Issues related to responsibility are frequent in daily life; people alarmed with responsibility think that they are well familiar with their entire common situations. They end up enquiring whether people are sane or normal enough to be responsible.

It is implicated that ordinary well grown up individuals are responsible, but the question still remains whether the given individuals fall in a given normal range. Alternatively, philosophers are not sure regarding the circumstances of responsibility. The goal of Wolf’s disagreement is to push for those who fret about the rational problems not to leave the everyday pre-philosophical problems behind. Wolf suggests that sanity is a situation of responsibility that has more to do with the misty.

Also it appears that metaphysical problems envelop the issue of responsibility; a thought that was never realized. Wolf asserts that if the situation of sanity is totally esteemed some of the challenging metaphysical aspects of the problem will melt. According to Susan Wolf, the ordinary and non contentious necessity that the responsible representative must have, is sanity.

This analytical essay on Susan Wolf’s Philosophy was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Analytical Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2019, January 11). Susan Wolf’s Philosophy. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/susan-wolfs-philosophy/

Work Cited

"Susan Wolf’s Philosophy." IvyPanda, 11 Jan. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/susan-wolfs-philosophy/.

1. IvyPanda. "Susan Wolf’s Philosophy." January 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/susan-wolfs-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. "Susan Wolf’s Philosophy." January 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/susan-wolfs-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Susan Wolf’s Philosophy." January 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/susan-wolfs-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Susan Wolf’s Philosophy'. 11 January.

More related papers