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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. added 2020-08-07
    A Fundamental Failure of Frankfurt’s Agentic Counterfactual Intervention: No Agency.Joseph de la Torre Dwyer - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-10.
    Frankfurt’s “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” made an important intervention into the literature on moral responsibility via a classical Frankfurt-type example, arguing that “the principle of alternate possibilities” is false. This paper argues that classical Frankfurt-type examples fail due to the use of agentic counterfactual interventions who lack agency. Using finite state machines to illustrate, I show the models that classical Frankfurt-type examples must use and why they are incongruent with leeway incompatibilist beliefs—the motivating interlocutor for classical Frankfurt-type examples. I (...)
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  2. added 2020-06-27
    What’s Wrong with the Consequence Argument: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response.Christian List - 2019 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 119 (3):253-274.
    The most prominent argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism is Peter van Inwagen’s consequence argument. I offer a new diagnosis of what is wrong with this argument. Proponents and critics typically accept the way the argument is framed, and only disagree on whether the premisses and rules of inference are true. I suggest that the argument involves a category mistake: it conflates two different levels of description, namely, the physical level at which we describe the world from (...)
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  3. added 2020-06-01
    The Ability to Do Otherwise and the New Dispositionalism.Romy Jaster - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    According to the New Dispositionalist’s response to the Frankfurt Cases, Jones can do otherwise because Black merely masks (or finks), but does not deprive Jones of the relevant ability. This reasoning stands in the tradition of a line of thought according to which an informed view of the truth conditions of ability attributions allows for a compatibilist stance. The promise is that once we understand how abilities work, it turns out that the ability to do otherwise is compatible with determinism, (...)
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  4. added 2020-05-11
    Freedom of the Will, by Ferenc Huoranszki. [REVIEW]Simon Kittle - 2013 - Disputatio 5 (37):368-374.
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  5. added 2020-05-11
    Moral Responsibility, Determinism, and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Peter van Inwagen - 1999 - The Journal of Ethics 3 (4):343-351.
    In his classic paper, “The Principle of Alternate Possibilities,” Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities implied that the debate between the “compatibilists” and the “incompatibilists” did not have the significance that both parties had attributed to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if (...)
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  6. added 2020-03-27
    Agentive und andere Fähigkeiten. Bemerkungen zu Agents' Abilities von Romy Jaster.David Löwenstein - forthcoming - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung.
    This is a comment on Romy Jaster's book "Agents' Abilities".
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  7. added 2020-03-18
    La Responsabilité Pour Ce Qui Est Inévitable.Cyrille Michon - 2018 - Acta Philosophica 27 (1):27-44.
    I argue that one can be responsible for a certain state of affairs, one has brought about, or one has let happen, only if one could have avoided it, by omitting or by performing a certain action. I limit my argument to the consequences of actions and omissions, and to the conditional ability of avoiding the consequences by an alternative behaviour. Even within those limits, the argument challenges the Causal Conception of Moral Responsibility and the strategy mounted by Frankfurt against (...)
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  8. added 2020-02-14
    Acts, Omissions, and Semi-Compatibilism.David Zimmerman - 1994 - Philosophical Studies 73 (2-3):209-23.
  9. added 2020-02-14
    A Riddle Regarding Omissions.Ishtiyaque Haji - 1992 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 22 (4):485 - 502.
    John Martin Fischer has recently proposed that actions and omissions are asymmetric with respect to the requirement of alternative possibilities for moral responsibility: whereas moral responsibility for an action does not require freedom to refrain from performing the action, moral responsibility for failure to perform an action does require freedom to perform the action. In what follows, I first critically assess Fischer's asymmetry principle. In arguing against the principle, I raise some concerns about Fischer's association of responsibility with control. I (...)
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  10. added 2020-02-11
    The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays.Carl F. Cranor - 1990 - Ethics 100 (4):886-887.
  11. added 2020-01-30
    The Reality of Free Will.Claus Janew - 2020 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 11 (1):1-16.
    The uniqueness of each viewpoint, each point of effect, can be "overcome" only by changing the viewpoint to other viewpoints and returning. Such an alternation, which can also appear as constant change, makes up the unity of the world. The wholeness of an alternation, however, is a consciousness structure because of the special relationship between the circumscribing periphery and the infinitesimal center. This process structure unites determinacy and indeterminacy at every point also totally. We are dealing, therefore, with forms of (...)
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  12. added 2020-01-25
    Semicompatibilism: No Ability to Do Otherwise Required.Taylor W. Cyr - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (3):308-321.
    In this paper, I argue that it is open to semicompatibilists to maintain that no ability to do otherwise is required for moral responsibility. This is significant for two reasons. First, it undermines Christopher Evan Franklin’s recent claim that everyone thinks that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for free will and moral responsibility. Second, it reveals an important difference between John Martin Fischer’s semicompatibilism and Kadri Vihvelin’s version of classical compatibilism, which shows that the dispute between them is (...)
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  13. added 2020-01-22
    Omnipresent Consciousness and Free Will.Claus Janew - 2011 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 2 (6):868-876.
    This article is not an attempt to explain consciousness in terms basically of quantum physics or neuro-biology. Instead I should like to place the term "Consciousness" on a broader footing. I shall therefore proceed from everyday reality, precisely where we experience ourselves as conscious beings. I shall use the term in such a general way as to resolve the question whether only a human being enjoys consciousness, or even a thermostat. Whilst the difference is considerable, it is not fundamental. Every (...)
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  14. added 2019-12-28
    Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, Harry Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Leslie Allan defends this moral maxim from Frankfurt's attack. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. The author also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt’s conclusions.
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  15. added 2019-11-08
    Foreknowledge, Frankfurt, and Ability to Do Otherwise: A Reply to Fischer.Kadri Vihvelin - 2008 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (3):pp. 343-372.
    There is one important point about which Fischer and I are in agreement. We agree that determinism is compatible with moral responsibility. We disagree about the best way of defending that claim. He thinks that Frankfurt's strategy is a good one, that we can grant incompatibilists the metaphysical victory while insisting that we are still morally responsible. I think this a huge mistake and I think the literature spawned by Frankfurt's attempt to undercut the metaphysical debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists (...)
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  16. added 2019-10-18
    The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition.Robert Kane (ed.) - 2011 - Oup Usa.
  17. added 2019-09-17
    Que tipo de determinação é compatível com que tipo de liberdade? – Uma resposta a Marcelo Fischborn.Gilberto Gomes - 2019 - Filosofia Unisinos 2 (20):113-127.
    While agreeing with Fischborn’s (2018) contention that, according to one traditional definition of compatibilism, my position should be classified as that of a libertarian incompatibilist, I argue here for a different view of compatibilism. This view involves, on the one hand, local probabilistic causation of decisions (rather than universal strict determinism) and, on the other, free will conceived as involving decisions generated by a decision-making process carried out by the brain, which consciously contemplates different alternatives and could in principle have (...)
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  18. added 2019-08-26
    Moral Responsibility for Actions and Omissions: The Asymmetry Thesis Rejected.David Palmer & Yuanyuan Liu - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-13.
    There is an important contemporary debate in moral responsibility about whether the following asymmetry thesis is true: moral responsibility for actions does not require alternative possibilities but moral responsibility for omissions does. In this paper, we do two things. First, we consider and reject a recent argument against the asymmetry thesis, contending that the argument fails because it rests on a false view about the metaphysics of omissions. Second, we develop and defend a new argument against the asymmetry thesis, one (...)
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  19. added 2019-08-16
    Omissions and Responsibility.Elazar Weinryb - 1980 - Philosophical Quarterly 30 (118):1-18.
  20. added 2019-08-09
    Determinism and Avoidability in Sociohistorical Analysis.Harry H. Bash - 1964 - Ethics 74 (3):186-200.
  21. added 2019-07-29
    Luckily, We Are Only Responsible for What We Could Have Avoided.Philip Swenson - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):106-118.
    This paper has two goals: (1) to defend a particular response to the problem of resultant moral luck and (2) to defend the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. Cases of overdetermination threaten to undermine the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. To deal with this issue, I will motivate a particular way of responding to the problem of resultant moral luck. I defend the view that one's degree (...)
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  22. added 2019-07-29
    Flickers of Freedom and Moral Luck.Carolina Sartorio - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):93-105.
    Midwest Studies In Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  23. added 2019-07-19
    ``Foreknowledge and Human Freedom".Linda Zagzebski - 1997 - In Philip Quinn & Charles Taliaferro (eds.), A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 291-299.
  24. added 2019-07-19
    The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge.Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    A compelling contribution to the field, The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge will appeal to students and scholars of theistic philosophy and the philosophy ...
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  25. added 2019-07-19
    God, Freedom, and Foreknowledge.John Martin Fischer (ed.) - 1989 - Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press.
  26. added 2019-07-12
    Asymmetry and Rational Ability.Gary Watson - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (2):467-475.
    For a symposium on Dana Nelkin's Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility.
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  27. added 2019-07-12
    Power Over the Past.John Martin Fischer - 1984 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 65 (4):335.
    I distinguish two versions of the "basic" argument for the incompatibility of god's foreknowledge and human freedom to do otherwise. I discuss various examples which purport to show that the first version is unsound. These examples seem to be cases in which an agent can do something, And if he were to do that thing, The past would have been different from what it actually was. I argue that these examples apply only to the first, And not to the second (...)
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  28. added 2019-06-06
    I—Gideon Rosen: Culpability and Duress: A Case Study.Gideon Rosen - 2014 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 88 (1):69-90.
    The paper examines the conditions under which we are responsible for actions performed under duress, focusing on a real case in which a soldier was compelled at gunpoint to participate in the massacre of civilian prisoners. The case stands for a class of cases in which the compelled act is neither clearly justified nor clearly excused on grounds of temporary incapacity, but in which it is nonetheless plausible that the agent is not morally blameworthy. The theoretical challenge is to identify (...)
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  29. added 2019-06-06
    Comments on Pelser’s “Against Frankfurt’s Care Ground of Importance”.J. Carl Ficarrotta - 2011 - Southwest Philosophy Review 27 (2):43-47.
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  30. added 2019-06-06
    ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’ and the Derivation of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities.David Copp - 2008 - Analysis 68 (1):67-75.
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  31. added 2019-06-06
    Modest Libertarianism, Luck, and Control: Reply to Gerald Harrison.Ishtiyaque H. Haji - 2007 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):77-89.
    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.
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  32. added 2019-06-06
    Defending Frankfurt’s Argument in Deterministic Contexts: A Reply to Palmer.Ishtiyaque Haji & Michael Mckenna - 2006 - Journal of Philosophy 103 (7):363-372.
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  33. added 2019-06-06
    Descartes and Leibniz on Human Free-Will and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Cecilia Wee - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (3):387-414.
    National University of Singapore, Singapore 117570.
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  34. added 2019-06-06
    Causal Necessity and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities: Sublata Causa Tollitur Effectus.Robert A. Imlay - 2000 - Modern Schoolman 77 (2):165-168.
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  35. added 2019-06-06
    Discussion with Harry Frankfurt - Responsibility in Autonomy Undermining Circumstances.Maureen Sie - 1998 - Ethical Perspectives 5 (1):30-35.
    In 1969 Prof. Frankfurt has introduced a famous class of counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. The principle that states that a person x is only responsible for an action y, if she could have done otherwise than y. In these examples a so called ‘counterfactual intervener’ figures that pre-empts all alternate possibilities counterfactually, that is, without actually intervening. Because this counterfactual intervener only looms passively in the background, x’s moral responsibility for y is not affected, whereas at the (...)
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  36. added 2019-06-06
    Freedom and Experience: Self-Determination Without Illusions.Magill Kevin - 1997 - London: author open access, originally MacMillan.
    Most of us take it for granted that we are free agents: that we can sometimes act so as to shape our own lives and those of others, that we have choices about how to do so and that we are responsible for what we do. But are we really justified in believing this? For centuries philosophers have argued about whether free will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism or natural causation, and they seem no closer to agreeing about (...)
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  37. added 2019-06-06
    Frankfurt Counterexamples: Some Comments on the Widerker-Fischer Debate.David P. Hunt - 1996 - Faith and Philosophy 13 (3):395-401.
    One strategy in recent discussions of theological fatalism is to draw on Harry Frankfurt’s famous counterexamples to the principle of alternate possibilities to defend human freedom from divine foreknowledge. For those who endorse this line, “Frankfurt counterexamples” are supposed to show that PAP is false, and this conclusion is then extended to the foreknowledge case. This makes it critical to determine whether Frankfurt counterexamples perform as advertised, an issue recently debated in this journal via a pair of articles by David (...)
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  38. added 2019-06-06
    Responsibility and the Principle of Possible Action.Walter Glannon - 1995 - Journal of Philosophy 92 (5):261-274.
  39. added 2019-06-06
    Frankfurt on 'Ought Implies Can' and Alternative Possibilities.David Widerker - 1991 - Analysis 51 (4):222.
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  40. added 2019-06-06
    Compatibilism and the ‘Ought’-Implies-‘Can’ Argument.Gregory Rich - 1989 - Southwest Philosophy Review 5 (2):9-16.
  41. added 2019-06-06
    La recepción de Freud en la Escuela de Frankfurt.E. Fernández García - 1987 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 22:73.
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  42. added 2019-06-06
    Frankfurt on Descartes: Consistency or Validation of Reason?Bruce W. Hauptli - 1983 - International Studies in Philosophy 15 (1):59-70.
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  43. added 2019-06-06
    Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue. [REVIEW]James J. Valone - 1982 - Teaching Philosophy 5 (2):170-171.
  44. added 2019-06-06
    Style and Strategy at the Limits of Philosophy: Heidegger and Derrida.David Wood - 1980 - The Monist 63 (4):494-511.
    The distinction between the form and content of language, between the how and the what, is not only traditional but formative for philosophy. It is formative in that it implies their genuine separability and so authorizes focussing on one side, on the what, relegating the question of how to such ‘peripheral areas’ as rhetoric, stylistics and pragmatics.
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  45. added 2019-06-06
    What is Wrong with Addition of an Alternate?Hugh S. Chandler - 1978 - Philosophical Quarterly 28 (110):31.
  46. added 2019-06-06
    Free Will and Practical Reason.Richard Reilly - 1976 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 50:51.
  47. added 2019-06-05
    Review Essay : Dimensions of Morality: Lutz Wingert, Gemeinsinn Und Moral: Grundzüge Einer Intersubjektivistischen Moralkonzeption (Frankfurt Am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993).Logi Gunnarsson - 1997 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (1):125-130.
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  48. added 2019-06-05
    Review : Bahro's Alternative: Book Review Rudolf Bahro: The Alternative in Eastern Europe. New York, NLB, 1978. 463 Pp. Transl. By David Fernbach From the German Original: Die Alternative. Zur Kritik des Real Ex Istierenden Sozialismus. Europaische Verladsanstalt, 1977, 543 Pp.Michael Gagern - 1980 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 7 (1):100-113.
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  49. added 2019-05-31
    Frankfurt-Type Examples, Obligation, and Responsibility.Ishtiyaque Haji - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 10 (3):255-281.
    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 (...)
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  50. added 2019-05-02
    Time, Leeway, and the Laws of Nature: Why Humean Compatibilists Cannot Be Eternalists.Andrei A. Buckareff - 2019 - Metaphysica 20 (1):51-71.
    Humean compatibilism combines a Humean conception of laws of nature with a strong dual-ability condition for free will that requires that agents possess the ability to decide differently when they make a free decision. On the Humean view of laws of nature, laws of nature are taken to be contingent non-governing descriptions of significant regularities that obtain in the entire history of the universe. On Humean compatibilism, agents are taken to possess dual ability when making free decisions because what the (...)
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1 — 50 / 599