Laws and penalties are in place to condition us to act a certain way, if one doesn’t act that certain way anyways because other conditions have determined them not to, then they are determined to face the penalties. Them having to face the penalties is designed to reinforce and strengthen the stimuli to increase the conditioning effectiveness of these laws for others. When a person is found guilty, they are guilty of breaking a law in which they had no choice but to break (no free-will). The real failure is on the deterrence systems part as the conditions set in place didn’t work. However, even the systems failure was determined, so it can’t be blamed either. The result is that when the law punishes someone, the person being punished is just collateral damage in a cause that has a greater agenda then just the individual.
Determinism doesn’t give a squat about the meaning of something. It simply acknowledges that the motion of events\actions are due to a perpetual cause and effect relationship.
Those who think there is free-will on the other hand, they claim they have control and choices, that they are free from causality, and have control to work towards some seemingly meaningful purpose. It seems more meaningful to the individual specifically when they think they have control. So among other motives, I think that people are attached to the illusion of free-will because they are also attached to wanting to be able to create their own meaning, or have control of finding some sort of meaning or purpose to their lives.
I hear so often, those that believe they have free will, when faced with the deterministic viewpoint, they often respond, “what would be the point of that?” or “what’s the point if I don’t have control” So you see, ones search and drive towards meaning and purpose, is a primary motivation for people to want to believe they have free will. This is one of the many reasons why I am skeptical to believe that we have free will, people have ulterior motives to want to believe they have free will.
The determination of what one feels is “better” is based on one defining a direction of ultimate completeness or “perfected” state of that in which one is trying to better. So betterment must recognize an idealized perfected state in order to determine one is in fact going in the direction of improvement.
But these improvements are just mans idea of how things “ought” to be. If you take man’s discrimination of things out of the picture, is everything not perfect? Everything is as it is, with or without man, despite man’s opinion(s) of it.