The essay pretty much tries to see what would happen if we operationalize the term determinism. What would determinism, or the lack of it, even look like? In the end whether the doctrine is real or not, it makes no real impact on our psychological feelings (moral sentiments). Strawson argues that in real life we do change our opinion of resentment based on the agent's responsibility. The example he gives, among many, is this: a guy steps on your hand. The first thing you think is, "what an asshole!!!". This initial response will change if you find out A) the guy purposely stomped on your foot or B) it was a complete accident (i.e. the guy was pushed).
Ultimately resentment and gratitude
is a form of life and is ingrained in our social practices. It doesn't
matter if actions are in fact pre-determined, our actions create our
selves (we are our actions) or, as Strawson puts it: "Our practices do
not merely exploit our natures, they express them". I think John Dewey
puts it more clearly in his essay on ethics, "We are responsible for out
conduct because that conduct is ourselves objectified in actions." The
statement that claims that we are not responsible for our actions is an
On the flip side, to suggest that if determinism were
true it would undermine moral responsibility is absurd because you
couldn't alter our psychological makeup, our propensity to feel
resentment, with a change in philosophical perspective.