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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 1998 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. Ii Blasco Disputatio: Does Free Will Require Alternative Possibilities? Blasco Disputatio is a Yearly Workshop Designed to Promote the Discussion on Topics in Epistemology, Metaphysics, the Philosophy of Mind and the Philosophy of Language. Each Edition of This Workshop Focuses on a Particular Issue to Be Disputed by Two Invited Speakers That Will Defend Divergent, If Not Opposing, Views. A Call for Papers Will Be Made for Contributions That Will Explore Further Aspects of the Topic. The 2016 Edition of the Blasco Disputatio Will Be Mainly Focused on the Question of Whether Free Will Requires Alternative Possibilities and on the Role of Causation in a Proper Understanding of Freedom, but It is Open to Discussing Any Related Issues in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Action. The Invited Papers, Together with a Selection of the Submitted Papers, Will Appear on a Special Issue in the Journal Disputatio. [REVIEW] Admin - 2015 - Disputatio.
  2. The Most Persuasive Frankfurt Example, and What It Shows: Or Why Determinism Is Not the Greatest Threat to Moral Responsibility.Larry Alexander - 2014 - Open Journal of Philosophy 4 (2):141-143.
  3. Robust Alternatives and Responsibility.Robert Allen - 2004 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (1):21-29.
    The Principle of Robust Alternatives states that an agent is responsible for doing something only if he/she could have performed a ‘robust’ alternative: another action having a different moral or practical value. Defenders of PRA maintain that it is not refuted by a ‘Frankfurt case’, given that its agent can be seen as having had such an alternative provided that we properly qualify that for which she is responsible. I argue here against two versions of this defense. First, I show (...)
  4. Re-Examining Frankfurt Cases.Robert Allen - 1999 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (3):363-376.
  5. Free Will and Evaluation: Remarks on Noel Hendrickson's "Free Will Nihilism and the Question of Method".Robert F. Allen - manuscript
    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” (...)
  6. Por Una Alternative Socialista.Jorge Alonso - 2011 - 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.
  7. Actions, Thought-Experiments and the 'Principle of Alternate Possibilities'.Maria Alvarez - 2009 - 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 (...)
  8. A engenhosa experiência mental de Frankfurt.Miguel Amen - 2005 - Critica.
  9. On Counterfactuals of Libertarian Freedom: Is There Anything I Would Have Done If I Could Have Done Otherwise?Paul C. Anders, Joshua C. Thurow & Kenneth Hochstetter - 2014 - American Philosophical Quarterly 51 (1):85-94.
  10. Reasonable Avoidability, Responsibility and Lifestyle Diseases.Martin Marchman Andersen - 2012 - Ethical Perspectives 19 (2).
  11. Scientific Essentialism, Could've Done Otherwise, And the Possibility of Freedom.Erik Anderson - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 15:13-20.
    Philosophers concerned with the problem of freedom and determinism differ strikingly over the analysis of the concept of human freedom of the will. Compatibilists and incompatibilists, determinists and indeterminists populate the conceptual landscape with a dizzying array of theories differing in complex and subtle ways. Each of these analyses faces an under-appreciated potential challenge: the challenge from scientific essentialism. Might all traditional analyses of freedom of the will be radically ill-conceived because the concept—the nature of freedom itself—is something discoverable only (...)
  12. How To Motivate The Maxim That 'Ought' Implies 'Can' To Defend The Principle Of Alternate Possibilities.Sean Armil - 2009 - 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 (...)
  13. Free Will, 'Can', and Ethics: A Reply to Lehrer.Bruce Aune - 1970 - Analysis 30 (January):77-83.
  14. Abilities, Modalities, and Free Will.Bruce Aune - 1963 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23 (March):397-413.
  15. L'alternative.G. B. & Vladimir Jankelevitch - 1938 - Journal of Philosophy 35 (14):391.
  16. Frankfurt Et la Liberté de la Volonté.Mathieu Baril - 2013 - Ithaque 13:47-74.
    Cet essai consiste en une analyse exégétique du texte séminal de Frankfurt « Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person ». Je présenterai une interprétation originale de la manière dont Frankfurt explique les notions de volonté, de liberté d’action et de liberté de la volonté. De plus, la thèse selon laquelle Frankfurt donne une explication causale de l’action libre et faite avec liberté de la volonté sera également défendue.
  17. A Funny Picture of Freedom, and How to Treat It.Donald R. Barker - 1976 - Behavior and Philosophy 4 (1):119.
  18. Incommensurable Goods, Alternative Possibilities, and the Self-Refutation of the Self-Refutation of Determinism.M. Baur - 2005 - American Journal of Jurisprudence 50 (1):165-171.
  19. Harry G. Frankfurt, Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes's Meditations. [REVIEW]Robert N. Beck - 1971 - Journal of Value Inquiry 5 (3):226.
  20. Facing the Future: Agents and Choices in Our Indeterminist World.Nuel D. Belnap - 2001 - 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.
  21. Sexist Language: Alternatives to the Alternatives.David Benatar - 2005 - Public Affairs Quarterly 19 (1):1-9.
  22. Molinist Frankfurt-Style Counterexamples and the Free Will Defense.Michael Bergmann - 2002 - Faith and Philosophy 19 (4):462-478.
  23. Compatibilism Without Frankfurt: Dispositional Analyses of Free Will.Bernard Berofsky - 2011 - In Robert Kane (ed.), Handbook of Free Will, 2nd Ed.
  24. Autonomes Handeln: Beitrage Zur Philosophie von Harry G. Frankfurt.M. Betzler & B. Guckes (eds.) - 2000 - Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
    Frankfurt verteidigt die Auffassung, daB ,,x hatte anders handeln konnen" keine not- wendige Bedingung fiir Freiheit und Verantwortlichkeit ist. ...
  25. Single, Alternate, and Successive Practice in the Acquisition of Two and Three Serial Lists.William L. Bewley, Douglas L. Nelson & W. J. Brogden - 1968 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 76 (3p1):376.
  26. Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities: The Use and Abuse of Examples. [REVIEW]Sam Black & Jon Tweedale - 2002 - The 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 (...)
  27. Why Compatibilists Need Alternative Possibilities.Reid Blackman - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (3):529-544.
    Defenders of compatibilism occupy one of two camps: those who think that free will requires the ability to do otherwise, and those who deny this. Those compatibilists who think that free will requires the ability to do otherwise are interested in defending a reading of ‘can’ such that one can do otherwise even if determinism is true. By contrast, those compatibilists who think that free will does not require the ability to do otherwise tend to join incompatibilists in denying that (...)
  28. The Kantian Versus Frankfurt.A. Blum - 2000 - Analysis 60 (3):287-288.
  29. The Kantian Versus Frankfurt.Alex Blum - 2000 - Analysis 60 (3):287–288.
  30. The Principle of Alternate Possibilities.David C. Blumenfeld - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (March):339-44.
  31. Sore Feet in Babel: An Author Goes to Frankfurt.Robert L. Bonn - 2005 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 16 (1):32-34.
  32. An Anatomy of Moral Responsibility.Matthew Braham & Martin van Hees - 2012 - Mind 121 (483):601 - 634.
    This paper examines the structure of moral responsibility for outcomes. A central feature of the analysis is a condition that we term the 'avoidance potential', which gives precision to the idea that moral responsibility implies a reasonable demand that an agent should have acted otherwise. We show how our theory can allocate moral responsibility to individuals in complex collective action problems, an issue that sometimes goes by the name of 'the problem of many hands'. We also show how it allocates (...)
  33. Action Theory.M. Brand & Douglas N. Walton (eds.) - 1976 - 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" ...
  34. Evolution Beyond Determinism - on Dennett's Compatibilism and the Too Timeless Free Will Debate.Maria Brincker - 2015 - 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 (...)
  35. Morally Important Needs.Gillian Brock - 1998 - 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 (...)
  36. Choice, Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities.Vivienne Brown - 2006 - 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 (...)
  37. Analysis of 'X Could Have Acted Otherwise'.F. B. Buckley - 1956 - Philosophical Studies 7 (5):69 - 74.
  38. Discussion with Harry Franfurt.Arnold Burms - 1998 - Ethical Perspectives 5 (1):21-22.
  39. Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt.Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) - 2002 - 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 ...
  40. On Frankfurt's Explanation of Respect for People.Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) - 2002 - MIT Press.
  41. A Frankfurt Example to End All Frankfurt Examples.James Cain - 2014 - 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.
  42. The Kane-Widerker Objection to Frankfurt Examples.James Cain - 2014 - 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’ (...)
  43. Frankfurt Style Examples.James Cain - 2003 - 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.
  44. An Alternate View of Learning.Brian Cambourne - 2008 - In Alexandra Miletta & Maureen McCann Miletta (eds.), Classroom Conversations: A Collection of Classics for Parents and Teachers. The New Press.
  45. Freedom and Determinism.Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & David Shier (eds.) - 2004 - Bradford.
    This collection of contemporary essays by prominent contemporary thinkers on the topics of determinism and free agency concentrates primarily on two areas: the compatibility problem and the metaphysics of moral responsibility. There are also essays on the related fields of determinism and action theory. The book is unique in that it contains up-to-date summaries of the life-work of five influential philosophers: John Earman, Ted Honderich, Keith Lehrer, Robert Kane, and Peter van Inwagen. There are also contributions by other familiar and (...)
  46. Robust Alternatives, Blame, and the Tax Evasion Case.Justin Caouette - 2015 - Southwest Philosophy Review 31 (2):27-32.
  47. Action, Responsibility and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Justin Capes - 2012 - 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.
  48. The Flicker of Freedom: A Reply to Stump.Justin A. Capes - 2014 - The 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 (...)
  49. I Couldn't Help It! Essays on Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities.Justin A. Capes - 2011 - Dissertation,
    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 (...)
  50. Frankfurt Cases: The Fine-Grained Response Revisited.Justin A. Capes & Philip Swenson - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (4):967-981.
    Frankfurt cases are supposed to provide us with counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities. Among the most well known responses to these cases is what John Fischer has dubbed the flicker of freedom strategy. Here we revisit a version of this strategy, which we refer to as the fine-grained response. Although a number of philosophers, including some who are otherwise unsympathetic to Frankfurt’s argument, have dismissed the fine grained response, we believe there is a good deal to be said (...)
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