There is an interesting and lengthy discussion here about the causes of our behavior and the (possibly irrelevant?) stories we tell ourselves about the causes of our behavior. The traditional view is something along the lines of this: when we consciously deliberate over our actions, we should be held morally accountable for what we do, since the moral worth of what we do has some connection to the reasons we take ourselves to have for doing it. (Some authors call this a “neo-Kantian” view, which seems to me inapt for several reasons, but set that aside.) But suppose it turns out – as some research suggests – that even when we pause to deliberate, our decisions may have less to do with our reasoning than we commonly suppose. So, for example, some studies say that if you find a dime, or smell fresh cookies, you are far more likely to help someone in need than otherwise. And that’s independently of the reasons you recite to yourself about whether you should help the person in need. If this is so, then do we still consider your reasons for action as morally relevant?
In truth, the issue comes down to acting from causes vs. acting from reasons. Lots of things act from causes, and it seems incorrect to hold anything accountable for what they do merely because of causes (consider blaming a stone for rolling downhill, or blaming a person for being hit by a meteor and splattering an elegant dining party with their bloody innards). But when they act from reasons, we do hold people morally accountable. Maybe this is because actions done for reasons are somehow free, or maybe this is because actions done for reasons issue from the appropriate sorts of mechanisms (I am trying to set aside the question of determinism). But now suppose that any time we find an act supposedly done for reasons, we find causes in the mix that very strongly and reliably influence the action. What effect does that have on our attributions of moral responsibility?
Anyway, have a look at the intelligent debate. Nice work. (Thanks to Rob Sica for pointing the discussion out to me.)