Igniting the flicker of freedom: Revisiting the Frankfurt scenario

Philosophia 35 (2):171-180 (2007)
This paper aims to challenge the view that the sign present in many Frankfurt-style scenarios is insufficiently robust to constitute evidence for the possibility of an alternate decision, and therefore inadequate as a means of determining moral responsibility. I have amended Frankfurt’s original scenario, so as to allow Jones, as well as Black, the opportunity to monitor his (Jones’s) own inclination towards a particular decision (the sign). Different outcome possibilities are presented, to the effect that Jones’s awareness of his own inclinations leads to the conclusion that the sign must be either (a) a prior determinate of the decision about to be made, (b) prior and indeterminate (therefore allowing for a contra-inclination decision to be made), or (c) constitutive of a decision that Jones has made but is not yet aware of. In effect, this means that, prior to the intervention of Black, Jones must have decided to do otherwise or could have so decided. Either way, although Frankfurt’s conclusion, that Jones could not have done other than he did, is upheld, the idea that he could not have decided otherwise must be rejected, and with it the view that the sign is nothing more than a flicker of freedom insufficient for assigning morally responsibility
Keywords Free will  Determinism  Self-monitoring  Moral responsibility
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