The deliberative relevance of refraining from deciding: A response to McKenna and Pereboom [Book Review]

Acta Analytica 21 (4):62 - 88 (2006)
Readers familiar with Harry Frankfurt’s argument that we do not need leeway-liberty (or the power to bring about alternative possible actions or intentions) to be morally responsible will probably also know that the most famous and popular response on behalf of leeway-libertarianism remains a dilemma posed in similar forms by David Widerker, Robert Kane, and Carl Ginet: either the agent retains significant residual leeway in Frankfurt-style cases, or these cases beg the question by presupposing causal determinism. In the last few years, there have been several different attempts to defend Frankfurtian critiques of PAP in response this dilemma. In a novel approach, Derk Pereboom and Michael McKenna present cases in which all deliberatively relevant or “robust” alternatives are blocked, but the agent’s act or decision is not determined. Pereboom and McKenna argue that any plausible leeway-condition on responsibility must characterize the required alternatives as robust in two ways: being voluntary performances and having a practical relevance accessible to the agent’s mind. I agree with the requirement of robustness, and argue that we can build this notion into a complex concept of agent-possibility, or “agentive-can.” However, I argue that both McKenna’s and Pereboom’s conceptions of robustness are too demanding: they exclude alternatives that are intuitively relevant. Moreover, I argue that the alternative of refraining from deciding, or voluntarily failing to decide, is robust in the right sense. In agreement with a tradition running from Ockham back through Scotus to Aquinas, I argue that this robust alternative is necessary for responsibility. If the Frankfurt-controller eliminates it, then the agent’s responsibility is undermined. In particular, I argue that Pereboom’s tax evasion cases do not refute this leeway-condition on moral responsibility.
Keywords free will  robustness  deliberation  decision  tracing
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,209
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

24 ( #197,094 of 1,941,073 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #334,045 of 1,941,073 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.