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Summary Traditionally philosophers have held that free will requires the power to choose from among conflicting alternatives: agents act with free will only when they could have refrained from acting as they did. This claim played an important role in explaining the centrality of the compatibility question: did determinism rule out the power to act otherwise? Classical compatibilists argued that agents could indeed act otherwise, developing conditional analyses of this power (for instance an agent can act otherwise if, had they wanted to, they would have acted otherwise). More recently, Frankfurt-style cases, in which an agent lacks alternatives due to the presence of a merely counterfactual intervener, have seemed to many to show that the power to do otherwise is not required either for free will or for moral responsibility.
Key works Hume 2000 is an important early state of the conditional analysis of the power to do otherwise; Ayer 1954 is an influential 20th century version. Chisholm 1964 is an important critique of the conditional analysis. Frankfurt 1969 transformed the entire debate, leading many philosophers to think that alternative possibilities were not necessary for free will. Widerker & McKenna 2003 collects many of the most important papers in this debate. Recently there has been a revival of compatibilist accounts of alternative possibilities, by dispositionalist compatibiists. See, for instance, Vihvelin 2004.
Introductions McKenna 2008; Fischer 2002
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  1. Robert Allen (1999). Re-Examining Frankfurt Cases. Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (3):363-376.
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  2. Robert F. Allen, Free Will and Evaluation: Remarks on Noel Hendrickson's "Free Will Nihilism and the Question of Method".
    Noel Hendrickson believes that free will is separable from the “evaluative intuitions” with which it has been traditionally associated. But what are these intuitions? Answer: principles such as PAP, Β, and UR (6). The thesis that free will is separable from these principles, however, is hardly unique, as they are also eschewed by compatibilists who are unwilling to abdicate altogether evaluative intuitions. We are told in addition that there are “metaphysical senses” of free will that are not “relevant to responsibility” (...)
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  3. Jorge Alonso (2011). Por Una Alternative Socialista. In César Cansino Ortiz & Servando Pineda (eds.), Al Fondo y a la Izquierda: Reflexiones Desde y Sobre Un Lugar Evanescente. Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez.
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  4. Maria Alvarez (2009). Actions, Thought-Experiments and the 'Principle of Alternate Possibilities'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):61 – 81.
    In 1969 Harry Frankfurt published his hugely influential paper 'Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility' in which he claimed to present a counterexample to the so-called 'Principle of Alternate Possibilities' ('a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise'). The success of Frankfurt-style cases as counterexamples to the Principle has been much debated since. I present an objection to these cases that, in questioning their conceptual cogency, undercuts many of those debates. Such cases (...)
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  5. Miguel Amen (2005). A engenhosa experiência mental de Frankfurt. Critica.
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  6. Paul C. Anders, Joshua C. Thurow & Kenneth Hochstetter (2014). On Counterfactuals of Libertarian Freedom: Is There Anything I Would Have Done If I Could Have Done Otherwise? American Philosophical Quarterly 51 (1):85-94.
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  7. Sean Armil (2009). How To Motivate The Maxim That 'Ought' Implies 'Can' To Defend The Principle Of Alternate Possibilities. Florida Philosophical Review 9 (2):26-37.
    David Copp argues that the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, which states that an agent is only morally blameworthy for doing A if she could have done something other than A, can be derived from the Maxim that “ought” implies “can.” On Copp’s formulation of the Maxim, an agent is all-in morally required not to do A only if she can do something other than A. Copp supports the Maxim with an argument from fairness and an argument based on the point (...)
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  8. Bruce Aune (1970). Free Will, 'Can', and Ethics: A Reply to Lehrer. Analysis 30 (January):77-83.
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  9. Bruce Aune (1963). Abilities, Modalities, and Free Will. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23 (March):397-413.
  10. Nuel D. Belnap (2001). Facing the Future: Agents and Choices in Our Indeterminist World. Oxford University Press on Demand.
    Here is an important new theory of human action, a theory that assumes actions are founded on choices made by agents who face an open future.
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  11. Michael Bergmann (2002). Molinist Frankfurt-Style Counterexamples and the Free Will Defense. Faith and Philosophy 19 (4):462-478.
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  12. Bernard Berofsky (2011). Compatibilism Without Frankfurt: Dispositional Analyses of Free Will. In Robert Kane (ed.), Handbook of Free Will, 2nd Ed.
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  13. M. Betzler & B. Guckes (eds.) (2000). Autonomes Handeln: Beitrage Zur Philosophie von Harry G. Frankfurt. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
    Frankfurt verteidigt die Auffassung, daB ,,x hatte anders handeln konnen" keine not- wendige Bedingung fiir Freiheit und Verantwortlichkeit ist. ...
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  14. Sam Black & Jon Tweedale (2002). Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities: The Use and Abuse of Examples. [REVIEW] Journal of Ethics 6 (3):281-303.
    The philosophical debate over the compatibility between causaldeterminism and moral responsibility relies heavily on ourreactions to examples. Although we believe that there is noalternative to this methodology in this area of philosophy, someexamples that feature prominently in the literature are positivelymisleading. In this vein, we criticize the use that incompatibilistsmake of the phenomenon of ``brainwashing,'''' as well as the Frankfurt-styleexamples favored by compatibilists. We provide an instance of thekind of thought experiment that is needed to genuinely test thehypothesis that moral (...)
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  15. Alex Blum (2000). The Kantian Versus Frankfurt. Analysis 60 (3):287–288.
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  16. David C. Blumenfeld (1971). The Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Journal of Philosophy 68 (March):339-44.
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  17. Robert L. Bonn (2005). Sore Feet in Babel: An Author Goes to Frankfurt. Logos 16 (1):32-34.
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  18. M. Brand & Douglas N. Walton (eds.) (1976). Action Theory. Reidel.
    INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITORS Gilbert Ryle, in his Concept of Mind (1949), attacked volitional theories of human actions; JL Austin, in his "If and Cans" ...
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  19. Maria Brincker (2015). Evolution Beyond Determinism - on Dennett's Compatibilism and the Too Timeless Free Will Debate. Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 3 (1):39-74.
    Most of the free will debate operates under the assumption that classic determinism and indeterminism are the only metaphysical options available. Through an analysis of Dennett’s view of free will as gradually evolving this article attempts to point to emergentist, interactivist and temporal metaphysical options, which have been left largely unexplored by contemporary theorists. Whereas, Dennett himself holds that “the kind of free will worth wanting” is compatible with classic determinism, I propose that his models of determinism fit poorly with (...)
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  20. Gillian Brock (1998). Morally Important Needs. Philosophia 26 (1-2):165-178.
    Frankfurt argues that there are two categories of needs that are at least prima facie morally important (relative to other claims). In this paper I examine Frankfurt's suggestion that two categories of needs, namely, nonvolitional and constrained volitional needs, are eligible for (at least prima facie) moral importance. I show both these categories to be defective because they do not necessarily meet Frankfurt's own criteria for what makes a need morally important. I suggest a further category of needs as being (...)
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  21. Vivienne Brown (2006). Choice, Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (3):265-288.
    Is choice necessary for moral responsibility? And does choice imply alternative possibilities of some significant sort? This paper will relate these questions to the argument initiated by Harry Frankfurt that alternative possibilities are not required for moral responsibility, and to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza's extension of that argument in terms of guidance control in a causally determined world. I argue that attending to Frankfurt's core conceptual distinction between the circumstances that make an action unavoidable and those that bring (...)
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  22. Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) (2002). Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press, Bradford Books.
    The original essays in this book address Harry Frankfurt's influential writing on personal identity, love, value, moral responsibility, and the freedom and ...
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  23. James Cain (2014). The Kane-Widerker Objection to Frankfurt Examples. Philosophia 42 (4):949-957.
    I will argue that the Kane-Widerker objection to Frankfurt examples is much weaker than is generally recognized. The Kane-Widerker objection holds that proponents of Frankfurt examples beg the question against incompatibilist accounts of free and responsible action by constructing examples that tacitly assume a compatibilist account of moral responsibility; that is, they assume that one can have non-derivative responsibility for choices that were not undetermined prior to their occurrence. The notion of an event, E, being ‘undetermined prior to its occurrence’ (...)
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  24. James Cain (2014). A Frankfurt Example to End All Frankfurt Examples. Philosophia 42 (1):83-93.
    Frankfurt examples are frequently used in arguments designed to show that agents lacking alternatives, or lacking ‘regulative control’ over their actions, can be morally responsible for what they do. I will maintain that Frankfurt examples can be constructed that undermine those very arguments when applied to actions for which the agent bears fundamental responsibility.
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  25. James Cain (2003). Frankfurt Style Examples. Southwest Philosophy Review 19 (1):221-229.
    Frankfurt style examples (FSEs) have played an important role in the development of metaphysical accounts of moral agency. The legitimacy of this approach often requires that FSEs be metaphysically possible. I argue that, given our current knowledge of the nature of decision-making, we have no grounds to accept the metaphysical possibility of many standard FSEs involving a device that can be triggered to bring about a predetermined decision.
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  26. Justin Capes (2012). Action, Responsibility and the Ability to Do Otherwise. Philosophical Studies 158 (1):1-15.
    Here it is argued that in order for something someone “does” to count as a genuine action, the person needn’t have been able to refrain from doing it. If this is right, then two recent defenses of the principle of alternative possibilities, a version of which says that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have refrained from doing it, are unsuccessful.
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  27. Justin A. Capes (2014). The Flicker of Freedom: A Reply to Stump. Journal of Ethics 18 (4):427-435.
    In a fascinating article in The Journal of Ethics, Eleonore Stump contends that while the flicker of freedom defense is the best available strategy for defending the principle of alternative possibilities against the threat posed to that principle by the Frankfurt cases, the defense is ultimately unsuccessful. In this article I identify a number of difficulties with Stump’s criticism of the flicker strategy. Along the way, I also clarify various nuances of the strategy that often get overlooked, and I highlight (...)
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  28. Justin A. Capes, I Couldn't Help It! Essays on Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities.
    According to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP), a person is blameworthy for what he did only if he could have avoided doing it. This principle figures importantly in disputes about the relationship between determinism, divine foreknowledge, free will and moral responsibility, and has been the subject of considerable controversy for over forty years now. Proponents of the principle have devoted a good deal of energy and ingenuity to defending it against various objections. Surprisingly, however, they have devoted comparatively little (...)
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  29. G. Carlos Patarroyo (2013). Frankfurt-Counterexamples and the “W-Defense”. Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 19:56-80.
    A criticism of Frankfurt-counterexamples presented by David Widerker and known as the W-defense has been resilient for years and has been considered one of the strongest challenges these counterexamples have to face. In this paper I intend to offer an explanation of one of the appeals on the W-Defense, mainly, that it allows us to pass over the intricate debate on whether a successful Frankfurt counterexample can be presented or not. I defend this debate, although interesting and fruitful, misses the (...)
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  30. Roderick M. Chisholm (1967). He Could Have Done Otherwise. Journal of Philosophy 64 (13):409-417.
  31. Greg Claeys (1980). Bahro: The Alternative. [REVIEW] Radical Philosophy 25:27.
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  32. Randolph Clarke (2013). Abilities. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (2):451-458.
    The paper is a contribution to a symposium on Dana Nelkin's MAKING SENSE OF FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY. Nelkin advances accounts of moral freedom--the freedom required for moral responsibility--and deliberative freedom--the freedom that any rational deliberator must believe in. She argues that the two come to fundamentally the same thing. I raise doubt about this claim, and also about whether the kind of ability that Nelkin characterizes suffices for responsibility in all cases.
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  33. Randolph Clarke (2012). Responsibility, Mechanisms, and Capacities. Modern Schoolman 88 (1/2):161-169.
    Frankfurt-style cases are supposed to show that an agent can be responsible for doing something even though the agent wasn’t able to do otherwise. Neil Levy has argued that the cases fail. Agents in such cases, he says, lack a capacity that they’d have to have in order to be responsible for doing what they do. Here it’s argued that Levy is mistaken. Although it may be that agents in Frankfurt-style cases lack some kind of capability, what they lack isn’t (...)
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  34. Randolph Clarke (2011). Omissions, Responsibility, and Symmetry. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (3):594-624.
    It is widely held that one can be responsible for doing something that one was unable to avoid doing. This paper focuses primarily on the question of whether one can be responsible for not doing something that one was unable to do. The paper begins with an examination of the account of responsibility for omissions offered by John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, arguing that in many cases it yields mistaken verdicts. An alternative account is sketched that jibes with and (...)
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  35. Randolph Clarke (2009). Dispositions, Abilities to Act, and Free Will: The New Dispositionalism. Mind 118 (470):323-351.
    This paper examines recent attempts to revive a classic compatibilist position on free will, according to which having an ability to perform a certain action is having a certain disposition. Since having unmanifested dispositions is compatible with determinism, having unexercised abilities to act, it is held, is likewise compatible. Here it is argued that although there is a kind of capacity to act possession of which is a matter of having a disposition, the new dispositionalism leaves unresolved the main points (...)
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  36. Randolph Clarke (2007). The Appearance of Freedom. Philosophical Explorations 10 (1):51 – 57.
    This paper develops three points in response to Habermas's ?The Language Game of Responsible Agency and the Problem of Free Will.? First, while Habermas nicely characterizes the appearance of freedom, he misconstrues its connections to deliberate agency, responsibility, and our justificatory practice. Second, Habermas's discussion largely overlooks grave conceptual challenges to our idea of freedom, challenges more fundamental than those posed by naturalism. Finally, a physicalist view of ourselves may be able to save as much of the appearance of freedom (...)
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  37. Randolph Clarke (1992). A Principle of Rational Explanation? Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):1-12.
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  38. Roger Clarke (2012). How to Manipulate an Incompatibilistically Free Agent. American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (2):139-49.
    Manipulation cases are usually seen as a problem for compatibilists, and a strength for incompatibilist theories. I present a new case of indirect manipulation, which I claim does not interfere with the manipulated agent's freedom under libertarian criteria. I argue that the only promising libertarian response to my case would undermine Widerker's response to Frankfurt cases, which I take to be the best libertarian strategy for dealing with Frankfurt-type manipulation. I outline a satisfactory compatibilist explanation of my case.
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  39. D. Cockburn (2000). FRANKFURT, HG-Necessity, Volition, and Love. Philosophical Books 41 (3):190-191.
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  40. Daniel Cohen & Toby Handfield (2007). Finking Frankfurt. Philosophical Studies 135 (3):363--74.
    Michael Smith has resisted Harry Frankfurt's claim that moral responsibility does not require the ability to have done otherwise. He does this by claiming that, in Frankfurt cases, the ability to do otherwise is indeed present, but is a disposition that has been `finked' or masked by other factors. We suggest that, while Smith's account appears to work for some classic Frankfurt cases, it does not work for all. In particular, Smith cannot explain cases, such as the Willing Addict, where (...)
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  41. Juan Comesaña (2013). Safety and Epistemic Frankfurt Cases. In John Turri (ed.), Virtuous Thoughts: The Philosophy of Ernest Sosa. Springer. 165--178.
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  42. David Copp (1997). Defending the Principle of Alternate Possibilities: Blameworthiness and Moral Responsibility. Noûs 31 (4):441-456.
    According to the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), a person is morally responsible for an action only if he could have done otherwise. PAP underlies a familiar argument for the incompatibility of moral responsibility with determinism. I argue that Harry Frankfurt's famous argument against PAP is unsuccessful if PAP is interpreted as a principle about blameworthiness. My argument turns on the maxim that "ought implies can" as well as a "finely-nuanced" view of the object of blame. To reject PAP on (...)
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  43. Stefaan E. Cuypers (1991). Autonomie en identificatie de analytische antropologie Van Harry Frankfurt. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 53 (4):700 - 709.
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  44. Miriam Mesquita Sampaio de Madureira (2009). La Teoría Crítica de la Escuela de Frankfurt, de la primera a la tercera generación: un recorrido histórico-sistemático. Revista Internacional de Filosofía Política 34:193-211.
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  45. Oisín Deery (2015). Is Agentive Experience Compatible with Determinism? Philosophical Explorations 18 (1):2-19.
    Many philosophers think not only that we are free to act otherwise than we do, but also that we experience being free in this way. Terry Horgan argues that such experience is compatibilist: it is accurate even if determinism is true. According to Horgan, when people judge their experience as incompatibilist, they misinterpret it. While Horgan's position is attractive, it incurs significant theoretical costs. I sketch an alternative way to be a compatibilist about experiences of free agency that avoids these (...)
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  46. Oisín Deery, Matthew S. Bedke & Shaun Nichols (2013). Phenomenal Abilities: Incompatibilism and the Experience of Agency. In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility. Oxford University Press. 126–50.
    Incompatibilists often claim that we experience our agency as incompatible with determinism, while compatibilists challenge this claim. We report a series of experiments that focus on whether the experience of having an ability to do otherwise is taken to be at odds with determinism. We found that participants in our studies described their experience as incompatibilist whether the decision was (i) present-focused or retrospective, (ii) imagined or actual, (iii) morally salient or morally neutral. The only case in which participants did (...)
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  47. Michael Della Rocca (1998). Frankfurt, Fischer and Flickers. Noûs 32 (1):99-105.
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  48. Daniel C. Dennett (1984). I Could Not Have Done Otherwise--So What? Journal of Philosophy 81 (10):553-565.
    Peter van Inwagen notes: "... almost all philosophers agree that a necessary condition for holding an agent responsible for an act is believing that the agent could have refrained from performing that act." Perhaps van Inwagen is right; perhaps most philosophers agree on this. If so, this shared assumption, which I will call CDO (for "could have done otherwise"), is a good candidate for denial, especially since there turns out to be so little to be said in support of it, (...)
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  49. Ezio Di Nucci (2011). Frankfurt Counterexample Defended. Analysis 71 (1):102-104.
    In this paper I argue that even if we accept that Jones does not kill Smith in the counterfactual scenario, Frankfurt’s counterexample is still safe because showing that Jones does not kill Smith in the counterfactual scenario does not show that Jones avoids killing Smith, because whether Black intervenes is not up to Jones. I argue that Frankfurt’s counterexample does not depend on the agent acting (let alone doing the same thing) in the counterfactual scenario.
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  50. Ezio Di Nucci (2011). Frankfurt Versus Frankfurt: A New Anti-Causalist Dawn. Philosophical Explorations 14 (1):117-131.
    In this paper I argue that there is an important anomaly to the causalist/compatibilist paradigm in the philosophy of action and free will. This anomaly, which to my knowledge has gone unnoticed so far, can be found in the philosophy of Harry Frankfurt. Two of his most important contributions to the field – his influential counterexample to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities and his ‘guidance’ view of action – are incompatible. The importance of this inconsistency goes far beyond the issue (...)
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