Whether indeterminism undermines moral responsibility by subverting one or more of responsibility’s requirements is something that has received close attention in the recent literature on free will. In this paper, I take issue with Gerald Harrison’s attempt to deflect various considerations for the view that indeterminism threatens responsibility either by threatening the control that responsibility requires or by posing a problem of luck.
I assess Robert Kane's view that global Frankfurt-type cases don't show that freedom to do otherwise is never required for moral responsibility. I first adumbrate Kane's indeterminist account of free will.This will help us grasp Kane's notion of ultimate responsibility, and his claim that in a global Frankfurt-type case, the counterfactual intervener could not control all of the relevant agent's actions in the Frankfurt manner, and some of those actions would be such that the agent could have done otherwise. Appealing (...) to considerations of responsibility and luck, I then show that the global cases survive Kane's objections. (shrink)
This book explores the epistemic or knowledge requirement of moral responsibility. Haji argues that an agent can be blamed (or praised) only if the agent harbors a belief that the action in question is wrong (or right or obligatory). Defending the importance of an "authenticity" condition when evaluating moral responsibility, Haji holds that one cannot be morally responsible for an action unless the action issues from sources (like desires or beliefs) that are truly the agent's own. Engaging crucial (...) arguments in moral theory to elaborate his views on moral responsibility, Haji addresses as well fascinating, underexamined topics such as assigning blame across an intercultural gap and the relevance of unconscious or dream thoughts when evaluating responsibility. (shrink)
Key elements of Randolph Clarke's libertarian account of freedom that requires both agent-causation and non-deterministic event-causation in the production of free action is assessed with an eye toward determining whether agent-causal accounts can accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation.
I argue that emotional sensitivity (or insensitivity) has a marked negative influence on ethical perception. Diminished capacities of ethical perception, in turn, mitigate what we are morally responsible for while lack of such capacities may altogether eradicate responsibility. Impairment in ethical perception affects responsibility by affecting either recognition of or reactivity to moral reasons. It follows that emotional insensitivity (together with its attendant impairment in ethical perception) bears saliently on moral responsibility. Since one distinguishing mark of the psychopath is emotional (...) insensitivity, emotional insensitivity and the resulting impairment in moral perception either excuses the psychopath from moral culpability or moderates the degree to which he is culpable. (shrink)
Recently, Neil Levy has proposed that an agent can acquire freedom-relevant agential abilities by virtue of the conditions in which she finds herself, and in this way, can be thought of as partially constituted by those conditions. This can be so even if the agent is completely ignorant of the relevant environmental conditions, and even if these conditions play no causal role in what the agent does. Drawing upon these resources, Levy argues that Frankfurt-style examples are not cogent. In this (...) paper, we explain why his argument fails. (shrink)
Derk Pereboom has advanced a four-case manipulation argument that, he claims, undermines both libertarian accounts of free action not committed to agent-causation and compatibilist accounts of such action. The first two cases are meant to be ones in which the key agent is not responsible for his actions owing to his being manipulated. We first consider a “hard-line” response to this argument that denies that the agent is not morally responsible in these cases. We argue that this response invites a (...) dialectically uncharitable reading of the argument. We then propose an alternative interpretation; it affirms that, at least prima facie, the manipulated agent in the first two cases is not responsible. Finally, we question Pereboom’s rationale for why the manipulation in these cases subverts responsibility. (shrink)
I first question whether genuinealternatives are necessary for moralresponsibility by assessing the assumption thataccessibility to such alternatives is vital tohaving the kind of control required forresponsibility. I next suggest that theavailability of genuine alternatives courtsproblems of responsibility-subverting luck foran important class of libertarian theories. Isummarize one such problem and respond torecent replies it has elicited. I then proposethat if this ``luck objection'''' against theidentified class of libertarian theories ispersuasive, a similar objection appears toafflict compatibilist theories as well.Finally, I show that (...) reflections on luck maywell take some bite out of variousFrankfurt-type examples. These are examplesdesigned to establish that an agent can bemorally responsible for an action despiteacting with libertarian free will in theabsence of genuine or pertinent alternatives. (shrink)
This article critically examines Kadri Vihvelin's proposal that to have free will is to have the ability to make choices on the basis of reasons, and to have this ability is to have a bundle of dispositions that can be exercised in more than one way. It is argued that partisans of Frankfurt examples can still make a powerful case for the view that being able to do otherwise, even on Vihvelin's compatibilist explication of ‘could have done otherwise,’ is not (...) required for moral responsibility. (shrink)
Introduction: The metaphysics of responsibility and philosophy of education -- Moral responsibility, authenticity, and the problem of manipulation -- A novel perspective on the problem of authenticity -- Forward-looking authenticity in the internalism/externalism debate -- Authentic education, indoctrination, and moral responsibility -- Moral responsibility, hard incompatibilism, and interpersonal relationships -- On the significance of moral responsibility and love -- Love, commendability, and moral obligation -- Love, determinism, and normative education.
The Direct Argument for the incompatibility of determinism and moral responsibility is so christened because this argument allegedly circumvents any appeal to the principle of alternate possibilities – a person is morally responsible for doing something only if he could have avoided doing it – to secure incompatibilism. In this paper, I first summarize Peter van Inwagen’s version of the Direct Argument. I then comment on David Widerker’s recent responses to the argument. Finally, I cast doubt on the argument by (...) constructing counterexamples to a rule of inference it invokes. (shrink)
Take determinism to be the thesis that for any instant, there is exactly one physically possible future (van Inwagen 1983, 3), and understand incompatibilism regarding responsibility to be the view that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility. Of the many different arguments that have been advanced for this view, the crux of a relatively traditional one is this: If determinism is true, then we lack alternatives.1 If we lack alternatives, then we can't be morally responsible for any of our behavior. (...) Therefore, if determinism is true, then we can't be morally responsible for any of our behavior. The second premise is a version of the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP): persons are morally .. (shrink)
I first adumbrate pertinent aspectsof Robert Kane''s libertarian theory of free choice oraction and an objection of luck that has been levelledagainst the theory. I then consider Kane''s recentresponses to this objection. To meet these responses,I argue that the view that undetermined choices (ofthe sort implied by Kane''s theory) are a matter ofluck is associated with a view about actionexplanation, to wit: when Jones does A and hisdoing of A is undetermined, and when hiscounterpart, Jones*, in the nearest possibleworld in (...) which the past and the laws are held constantuntil the moment of choice does B instead, thereis no explanation (deterministic or indeterministic)of the difference in outcome – Jones''s A-ing butJones*''s B-ing – in terms of prior reasonsor motives of either agent. Absence of such anexplanation is one crucial factor that underliesthe charge that Jones''s A-ing and Jones*''sB-ing are matters of luck. I argue that thissort of luck is incompatible with responsibility. (shrink)
I first argue against Peter Singer's exciting thesis that the Prisoner's Dilemma explains why there could be an evolutionary advantage in making reciprocal exchanges that are ultimately motivated by genuine altruism over making such exchanges on the basis of enlightened long-term self-interest. I then show that an alternative to Singer's thesis — one that is also meant to corroborate the view that natural selection favors genuine altruism, recently defended by Gregory Kavka, fails as well. Finally, I show that even granting (...) Singer's and Kavka's claim about the selective advantage of altruism proper, it is doubtful whether that type of claim can be used in a particular sort of sociobiological argument against psychological egoism. (shrink)
It has been argued that all compatibilist accounts of free action and moral responsibility succumb to the manipulation problem: evil neurologists or their like may manipulate an agent, in the absence of the agent's awareness of being so manipulated, so that when the agent performs an action, requirements of the compatibilist contender at issue are satisfied. But intuitively, the agent is not responsible for the action. We propose that the manipulation problem be construed as a problem of deviance. In troubling (...) cases of manipulation, psychological elements such as desires and beliefs, among other things, are acquired via causal routes that are deviant relative to causal routes deemed normal or baseline. We develop and defend rudiments of a baseline that is acceptable independently of whether one has compatibilist or incompatibilist leanings. (shrink)
Practical reasons, roughly, are reasons to have our desires and goals, and to do what might secure these goals. I argue for the view that lack of freedom to do otherwise undermines the truth of judgments of practical reason. Thus, assuming that determinism expunges alternative possibilities, determinism undercuts the truth of such judgments. I propose, in addition, that if practical reason is associated with various values in a specified way, then determinism precludes such values owing to determinism's imperiling practical reason.
What is the connection between action that is caused by inauthentic antecedent springs of action, such as surreptitiously engineered-in desires and beliefs, and moral obligation? If, for example, an agent performs an action that derives from such antecedent springs can it be that the agent is not obligated to perform this action owing to the inauthenticity of its causal antecedents? I defend an affirmative response, assuming that we morally ought to bring about the states of affairs that occur in the (...) intrinsically best worlds accessible to us and that a version of attitudinal hedonism is the axiology for ranking worlds. (shrink)
I address three issues in this paper: first, just as many have thought that there is a requirement of alternative possibilities for the truth of judgments of moral responsibility, is there reason to think that the truth of judgments of intrinsic value also presupposes our having alternatives? Second, if there is this sort of requirement for the truth of judgments of intrinsic value, is there an analogous requirement for the truth of judgments of moral obligation on the supposition that obligation (...) supervenes on goodness? Third, if the truth of judgments of intrinsic value and those of moral obligation do presuppose our having access to alternatives, what should be said about whether determinism imperils the truth of such judgments? I defend an affirmative answer to the first question, a more guarded answer to the second, and a yet more restrained answer to the third. (shrink)
Famed so-called 'Frankfurt-type examples' have been invoked to cast doubt on the principle that a person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise. Many who disagree that the examples are successful in this respect argue that these examples succumb to a deadly dilemma. I uncover and assess libertarian assumptions upon which the 'dilemma objection' is based. On exposing these assumptions, it becomes clear that various sorts of libertarian are no longer entitled to (...) one or the other horns of the dilemma. (shrink)
I examine John Martin Fischer's attempt to block an argument for the conclusion that without alternative possibilities, morally deontic judgments (judgments of moral right, wrong, and obligation) cannot be true. I then criticize a recent attempt to sustain the principle that an agent is morally blameworthy for performing an action only if this action is morally wrong. I conclude with discussing Fisher's view that even if causal determinism undermines morally deontic judgments, it still leaves room for other significant moral assessments (...) including assessments of moral blameworthiness. (shrink)
Externalism is the view that facts about one's history or past in the external world that bear on the acquisition of one's responsibility-grounding psychological elements are pertinent to whether one's actions are free and, hence, pertinent to whether one can be morally responsible for them. Internalism is the thesis that the conditions of moral responsibility can be specified independently of facts about how the person acquired her responsibility-grounding psychological elements. In this paper we defend a position that navigates between externalism (...) and internalism: moral responsibility does not require that one have a past but it does require that one not have certain kinds of past. (shrink)
This paper highlights and discusses some key positions on free will and moral responsibility that I have defended. I begin with reflections on a Strawsonian analysis of moral responsibility. Then I take up objections to the view that there is an asymmetry in freedom requirements for moral responsibility and moral obligation: obligation but not responsibility requires that we could have done otherwise. I follow with some thoughts on the viability of different sorts of semi-compatibilism. Next, I turn to defending the (...) “luck objection“ to a popular libertarian account of the control that responsibility requires. This is, roughly, the objection that when our decisions are indeterministically caused, their occurrence is a matter of responsibility-undermining luck. Finally, I comment on Frankfurt examples. (shrink)
An overarching aim of education is the promotion of children's personal well-being. Liberal educationalists also support the promotion of children's personal autonomy as a central educational aim. On some views, such as John White's, these two goals—furthering well-being and cultivating autonomy—can come apart. Our primary aim in this paper is to argue for a species of a stronger view: assuming preferentism as our axiology, we suggest that there is an essential association between the autonomy of our springs of action, such (...) as desires and beliefs, on the one hand, and personal well-being, on the other. If we are right about this link, then we have at our disposal a partial (non-instrumental) validation of the liberal ideal of autonomy. (shrink)
In this paper, I expose a conundrum regarding divine creation as Leibniz conceives of such creation. What energizes the conundrum is that the concept of omnibenevolence—“consequential omnibenevolence”—that the Leibnizian argument for the view that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds presupposes, appears to sanction the conclusion that God has no practical reasons to create the actual world.
My primary objective is to motivate the concern that leading libertarian views of free action seem unable to account for an agent’s behavior in a way that reveals an explanatorily apt connection between the agent’s prior reasons and the intentional behavior to be explained. I argue that it is this lack of a suitable reasons explanation of purportedly free decisions that underpins the objection that agents who act with the pertinent sort of libertarian freedom cannot be morally responsible for what (...) they do because their intentional behavior is a matter of luck. The accounts scrutinized include a Kane-type event-causal view, Clarke’s account that appeals to both agent causation and event causation in the production of free action, and O’Connor’s pure agent-causal account. I conclude by discussing an advantage these libertarian accounts enjoy over compatibilist contenders: they possess a feature necessary to accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation. (shrink)
Discussion regarding education’s aims, especially its ultimate aims, is a key topic in the philosophy of education. These aims or values play a pivotal role in regulating and structuring moral and other types of normative education. We outline two plausible strategies to identify and justify education’s ultimate aims. The first associates these aims with a normative standpoint, such as the moral, prudential, or aesthetic, which is overriding, in a sense of ‘overriding’ to be explained. The second associates education’s ultimate aims (...) with the intrinsic value of personal well-being. We advance reasons to doubt that these strategies are successful. The shortcomings of these strategies impute yet further urgency to the issue of how we are to ascertain and validate education’s ultimate aims. (shrink)
The author first argues against the view that an agent is morally blameworthy for performing an action only if it is morally wrong for that agent to perform that action. The author then proposes a replacement for this view whose gist is summarized in the principle: an agent S is morally blameworthy for performing action A only if S has the belief that it is wrong for her to do A and this belief plays an appropriate role in S's A-ing. (...) He focuses on explicating the role an agent's belief that a prospective action, A, of hers is wrong must play in the production of her A-ing in order that she be blameworthy for A-ing. Towards this end, the author makes use of cases involving akrasia and self-deception. (shrink)
The problem of induced pro-attitudes is simply this: why is action which ultimately issues from pro-attitudes such as desires, volitions, and goals, induced by techniques such as direct manipulation of the brain, hypnosis, or “value engineering,” frequently regarded as action for which its agent cannot be held morally responsible? The problem is of interest for several reasons. Ferdinand Schoeman, for instance, believes that the problem poses a resolvable but challenging predicament for compatibilists: if agents can be held morally responsible for (...) actions that are causally determined, then why should actions that result from induced pro-attitudes be regarded as paradigmatically unfree actions for which agents cannot be held morally accountable? Robert Kane exploits the problem to launch a libertarian attack on compatibilists. He says that a covert non-constraining controller controls the will of another agent by arranging “circumstances beforehand so that the agent wants and desires, and hence chooses and tries, only what the controller intends.” Kane claims that compatibilist accounts of freedom cannot distinguish between cases in which an agent behaves freely and those in which an agent falls prey to the covert non-constraining control of some other party. (shrink)
We standardly believe that people are morally responsible for at least some of their conduct. We think, for example, that we are praiseworthy for some of our deeds and blameworthy for others. Traditionally it has been thought that at least two conditions must be satisfied for a person to be responsible for her intentional actions: a control condition which says, loosely, that the person acts voluntarily; and an epistemic one which requires, roughly, that the person not be relevantly ignorant of (...) what she is doing. -/- In this paper, I shall confine attention to a core element of the epistemic condition. After clarifying this element, I’ll motivate the suggestion that specifically moral goals, concerns, or ideals in the everyday lives of very many of us do not take pride of place. This simple fact, in association with the core epistemic element of responsibility, I believe, reveals that the ‘scope’ of moral responsibility is restricted. Next, I propose and attempt to defend the view that though people are not morally responsible for much of their behaviour in the day-to-day business of living, they are responsible — not just causally — but ‘normatively’ as I shall say, for a good deal of what they do. I shall end by producing a sketch of the concept of ‘normative responsibility’. (shrink)
I start by using “Frankfurt-type” examples to cast preliminary doubt on the “Objective View” - that one is blameworthy for an action only if that action is objectively wrong, and follow by providing further arguments against this view. Then I sketch a replacement for the Objective View whose core is that one is to blame for performing an action, A, only if one has the belief that it is morally wrong for one to do A, and this belief plays an (...) appropriate role in the etiology of one's A-ing. I next defend this core against recently advanced objections and then show how it helps with defusing a skeptical challenge from the direction of causal determinism against blameworthiness. Finally, I exploit the core to isolate an analogous epistemic core for nonmoral but “normative” varieties of blameworthiness. (shrink)
This paper revisits the issue of whether responsibility is essentially historical. Roughly, the leading question here is this: Do ways in which we can acquire pertinent antecedents of action, such as beliefs, desires, and values, have an essential bearing on whether we are responsible for actions that are suitably related to these antecedents? I argue, first, that Michael McKenna’s interesting case for nonhistoricism is indecisive, and, second, his brand of modest historicism, while highly insightful, yields results concerning responsibility that ought (...) to be resisted. I conclude by motivating a hybrid view: it implies that responsibility does not require that one have a past, but should one have a past, it must be a past of a certain sort. (shrink)
Roughly, when an agent performs an action under liberating constraints, the agent could not avoid perfonning that action, her inability to do otherwise stems from her not being able to will to do otherwise, yet in perfonning the action, the agent may well regard herself as having acted freely or autonomously, or “in character” (as opposed to “out of character”), or in conformity with her “deep self.” As action under liberating constraints issues from one’s “deep self,” it seems reasonable to (...) suppose, as some have recommended, that whenever a person acts under such constraints, she is morally responsible for her action. I first argue against this recommendation. Then I develop a sketch of an account of control---the sort required for the moral responsibility---which implies that, frequently, those who act under liberating constraints are not morally responsible for their (germane) actions. (shrink)
It is argued that a theorist like Leibniz who believes that a consequentially omnibenevolent God created the actual world must presuppose that there is a best possible world. If so, then if God did create this world, there is no best, and He has as essential properties each of His perfections, God's omnibenevolence must be understood in terms of some alternative concept of omnibenevolence. Such an alternative is offered, one consistent with there being no best world, and one that does (...) not presuppose the truth of the consequentialist moral principle that one ought to do the best one can. (shrink)
This paper responds to three critical essays on my book, The Significance of Free Will(Oxford, 1996) by Randolph Clarke, Istiyaque Haji and Alfred Mele (which essays appear in this issue and an earlier issue of this journal). This response first explains crucial features of the theory of free will of the book, including the notion of ultimate responsibility.The paper then answers objections of Haji and Mele that the occurrence of undetermined choices would be matters of luck or chance, (...) and so could not be responsible actions. It then responds to concerns of Clarke that indeterminism provides no greater degree of control for defenders of incompatibilist free will and to concerns Clarke has about the notions of "effort" and "willing" in the book. Finally, the paper addresses objections of Haji concerning Frankfurt type-examples and the relation of moral responsibility to the power to act otherwise, and it addresses a concern of Mele's about why we should want a free will that is incompatible with determinism. (shrink)
In a recent paper, IshtiyaqueHaji and Michael McKenna argue that my attack on Frankfurt-style cases fails. I had argued that we cannot be confident that agents in these cases retain their responsibility-underwriting capacities, because what capacities an agent has can depend on features of the world external to her, including merely counterfactual interveners. Haji and McKenna argue that only when an intervention is actual does the agent gain or lose a capacity. Here I demonstrate that this (...) claim is false: capacities are dispositions that can be constituted by features of the environment that are currently inactive. I also reply to two other objections: that my argument begs the question against historical accounts of moral responsibility and that it leaves the very locus of free action, our mental acts, untouched. (shrink)
I seek to reply to the thoughtful and penetrating comments by William Rowe, Alfred Mele, Carl Ginet, and IshtiyaqueHaji. In the process, I hope that my overall approach to free will and moral responsibility is thrown into clearer relief. I make some suggestions as to future directions of research in these areas.
This is the introduction to a volume of new essays in the metaphysics of moral responsibility by John Martin Fischer, Carl Ginet, IshtiyaqueHaji, Alfred R. Mele, Derk Pereboom, Paul Russell, and Peter van Inwagen. I provide some background for the essays, cover the main debates in the metaphysics of moral responsibility, and emphasize some of the authors' contributions to this area of philosophy.
A popular justification of education for autonomy is that autonomy possession has intrinsic prudential value. Communitarians have argued, however, that although autonomy may be a core element of a well-lived life in liberal societies, it cannot claim such a prudential pedigree in traditional societies in which the conception of a good life is intimately tied to the acceptance of a pre-established worldview. In this paper I examine a recent attempt made by IshtiyaqueHaji and Stefaan Cuypers to respond (...) to this challenge by reestablishing the intrinsic prudential value of autonomy, and I argue that although their work has merit in some respects, it suffers from a notable theoretical deficiency as well as a practical deficiency. Like Haji and Cuypers, I wish to argue that autonomy has intrinsic prudential value; but my argument is not grounded on the claim that autonomy is a necessary part of well-being. I argue, rather, that it stands to reason—and that liberals and traditionalists alike have reason to accept—that autonomous assent to a conception of the good life is an intrinsically prudentially better state of affairs than nonautonomous assent to the same. My goal in this essay, then, is to clarify the prudential significance of (and to provide a justification for) education for autonomy in a manner that will be appealing to liberals and traditionalists alike. (shrink)
This article provides a brief explanation of Robert Kane’s indeterministic, event-causal libertarian theory of freedom and responsibility. It is noted that a number of authors have criticized libertarian theories,such as Kane’s, by presenting the problem of luck. After noting how Kane has tried to answer this problem in his recent writings, the author goes on to explain IshtiyaqueHaji’s recent version of the luckargument. The author considers three possible Kanian replies to Haji’s luck argument and argues that (...) the third reply can adequately answer the luck objection. It is also noted that the third reply requires making some significant alterations to Kane’s theory that would also help him resolve certain problems with his views about responsibility for character. (shrink)