Refuting a Frankfurtian objection to Frankfurt-type counterexamples

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2):207-213 (2010)
In this paper I refute an apparently obvious objection to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities according to which if in the counterfactual scenario the agent does not act, then the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. And because what happens in the counterfactual scenario cannot count as the relevant agent’s actions given the sort of external control that agent is under, then we can ground responsibility on that agent having been able to avoid acting. I illustrate how this objection to Frankfurt’s famous counterexample is motivated by Frankfurt’s own ‘guidance’ view of agency. My argument consists in showing that even if we concede that the agent does not act in the counterfactual scenario, that does not show that the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. This depends on the crucial distinction between ‘not φ-ing’ and ‘avoiding φ-ing’.
Keywords Frankfurt  Principle of alternate possibilities  Moral responsibility  Free will
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-009-9188-0
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Ezio Di Nucci (2012). Priming Effects and Free Will. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (5):725-734.
Ezio Di Nucci (2014). Avoiding and Alternate Possibilities. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (5):1001-1007.

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