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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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564 found
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  1. added 2018-12-21
    Blameworthiness and Buffered Alternatives.Justin A. Capes - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (3):269-280.
    Frankfurt cases are designed to be counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities, a version of which states that an agent is blameworthy for what she did only if there was an alternative course of action available to her at the time, the availability of which is relevant per se to an explanation of why the agent is blameworthy for her action. In this article, I argue that the buffer cases, which are among the most promising and influential Frankfurt cases (...)
  2. added 2018-11-13
    Abilities.Romy Jaster - forthcoming - Berlin, New York: deGruyter.
  3. added 2018-11-13
    Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities. [REVIEW]Carlos Moya - 2004 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (1):108-112.
  4. added 2018-11-13
    Moral Responsibility and Leeway for Action.Keith D. Wyma - 1997 - American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1):57 - 70.
  5. added 2018-11-06
    Chance, Choice and Freedom.Alfred Mele - 2011 - The Philosophers' Magazine 55:61-65.
    What does the idea that you could have done something else at the time come to? According to some philosophers, it comes to this: in a hypothetical universe that has exactly the same past as our universe and exactly the same laws of nature, you do something else at this very time.
  6. added 2018-11-06
    Soft Libertarianism and Frankfurt-Style Scenarios.Alfred R. Mele - 1996 - Philosophical Topics 24 (2):123-141.
  7. added 2018-11-01
    Does Everyone Think the Ability to Do Otherwise is Necessary for Free Will and Moral Responsibility?Simon Kittle - 2018 - Philosophia:1-7.
    Christopher Franklin argues that, despite appearances, everyone thinks that the ability to do otherwise is required for free will and moral responsibility. Moreover, he says that the way to decide which ability to do otherwise is required will involve settling the nature of moral responsibility. In this paper I highlight one point on which those usually called leeway theorists - i.e. those who accept the need for alternatives - agree, in contradistinction to those who deny that the ability to do (...)
  8. added 2018-10-29
    Reasonable Avoidability, Responsibility and Lifestyle Diseases.Martin Marchman Andersen - 2012 - Ethical Perspectives 19 (2).
  9. added 2018-10-29
    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 (...)
  10. added 2018-10-17
    Indirectly Free Actions, Libertarianism, and Resultant Moral Luck.Robert J. Hartman - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    Martin Luther affirms his theological position by saying “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Supposing that Luther’s claim is true, he lacks alternative possibilities at the moment of choice. Even so, many libertarians have the intuition that he is morally responsible for his action. One way to make sense of this intuition is to assert that Luther’s action is indirectly free, because his action inherits its freedom and moral responsibility from earlier actions when he had alternative possibilities and (...)
  11. added 2018-08-20
    Free Will and Open Alternatives.Carlos J. Moya - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):167-191.
    In her recent book Causation and Free Will, Carolina Sartorio develops a distinctive version of an actual-sequence account of free will, according to which, when agents choose and act freely, their freedom is exclusively grounded in, and supervenes on, the actual causal history of such choices or actions. Against this proposal, I argue for an alternative- possibilities account, according to which agents’ freedom is partly grounded in their ability to choose or act otherwise. Actual-sequence accounts of freedom are motivated by (...)
  12. added 2018-08-20
    Actual Causes and Free Will.Carolina Sartorio - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):147-165.
    In this paper I reexamine the debate between two contrasting conceptions of free will: the classical model, which understands freedom in terms of alternative possibilities, and a more recent family of views that focus only on actual causes, and that were inspired by Frankfurt’s famous attack on the principle of alternative possibilities. I offer a novel argument in support of the actual-causes model, one that bypasses the popular debate about Frankfurt-style cases.
  13. added 2018-08-20
    Does Free Will Require Alternative Possibilities?Pablo Rychter - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):131-146.
    In this introductory study I discuss the notion of alternative possibilities and its relation to contemporary debates on free will and moral responsibility. I focus on two issues: whether Frankfurt-style cases refute the principle of alternative possibilities, and whether alternative possibilities are relevant to grounding free will and moral responsibility. With respect to the first issue, I consider three objections to Frankfurt-syle cases: the flicker strategy, the dilemma defense, and the objection from new dispositionalism. With respect to the second issue, (...)
  14. added 2018-08-14
    Kant, Ought Implies Can, the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, and Happiness.Samuel Kahn - 2018 - Lexington Books.
    This book examines three issues: the principle of ought implies can ; the principle of alternate possibilities ; and Kant’s views on the duty to promote one’s own happiness. It argues that although Kant was wrong to deny such a duty, the part of his denial that rests on a conception of duty incorporating both OIC and PAP is sound.
  15. added 2018-08-04
    The Problem of Free Will and Determinism: An Abductive Approach.Kristin M. Mickelson - forthcoming - Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (1).
    This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of free will and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive (i.e. inference to the best-explanation) reasoning may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of free will. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation problem, each implies a unique (...)
  16. added 2018-07-20
    Manipulation Arguments and the Freedom to Do Otherwise.Patrick Todd - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2):395-407.
    I provide a manipulation-style argument against classical compatibilism—the claim that freedom to do otherwise is consistent with determinism. My question is simple: if Diana really gave Ernie free will, why isn't she worried that he won't use it precisely as she would like? Diana's non-nervousness, I argue, indicates Ernie's non-freedom. Arguably, the intuition that Ernie lacks freedom to do otherwise is stronger than the direct intuition that he is simply not responsible; this result highlights the importance of the denial of (...)
  17. added 2018-07-03
    When is an Alternative Possibility Robust?Simon Kittle - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy:1-12.
    According to some, free will requires alternative possibilities. But not any old alternative possibility will do. Sometimes, being able to bring about an alternative does not bestow any control on an agent. In order to bestow control, and so be directly relevant qua alternative to grounding the agent's moral responsibility, alternatives need to be robust. Here, I investigate the nature of robust alternatives. I argue that Derk Pereboom's latest robustness criterion is too strong, and I suggest a different criterion based (...)
  18. added 2018-05-18
    A Principle of Rational Explanation?Randolph Clarke - 1992 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):1-12.
    This paper addresses an argument from Richard Double to the effect that any libertarian account of free will must attribute to human action a kind of rationality that is impossible. Double's argument relies on an alleged principle of rational explanation. Here it is argued that the proposed principle is false, and hence that Double has failed to show that libertarianism has any problem with rationality. The paper concludes with a suggestion as to how the sort of rationality in question is (...)
  19. added 2018-04-21
    A Modest Classical Compatibilism.Matthew J. Hart - 2017 - Disputatio (45):265–285.
    The advent of Frankfurt-style counterexamples in the early 1970s posed a problem not merely for incompatibilists, but for compatibilists also. At that time compatibilists too were concerned to hold that the presence of alternative possibilities was necessary for moral responsibility. Such a classical compatibilism, I argue in this paper, should not have been left behind. I propose that we can use a Kratzer-style semantics of ‘can’ to model ‘could have done otherwise’ statements in such a way that the truth of (...)
  20. added 2018-04-08
    A Minimal Libertarianism: Free Will and the Promise of Reduction.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2018 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In this book, Christopher Evan Franklin develops and defends a novel version of event-causal libertarianism. This view is a combination of libertarianism--the view that humans sometimes act freely and that those actions are the causal upshots of nondeterministic processes--and agency reductionism--the view that the causal role of the agent in exercises of free will is exhausted by the causal role of mental states and events (e.g., desires and beliefs) involving the agent. Franklin boldly counteracts a dominant theory that has similar (...)
  21. added 2018-02-18
    Free Will: Critical Concepts in Philosophy.John Martin Fischer (ed.) - 2005 - Routledge.
    Over the last three decades there has been a tremendous amount of philosophical work in the Anglo-American tradition on the cluster of topics pertaining to Free Will. Contemporary work has in some instances been in the form of lively debates between proponents of different viewpoints, and literature surrounding the area is therefore characterized by a genuine vitality. This collection selects the very best of this material and presents it in a single, accessible set of volumes.
  22. added 2018-02-18
    I Could Not Have Done Otherwise-So What?Daniel C. Dennett - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (10):553-565.
    Peter van Inwagen notes: "... almost all philosophers agree that a necessary condition for holding an agent responsible for an act is believing that the agent could have refrained from performing that act." Perhaps van Inwagen is right; perhaps most philosophers agree on this. If so, this shared assumption, which I will call CDO (for "could have done otherwise"), is a good candidate for denial, especially since there turns out to be so little to be said in support of it, (...)
  23. added 2018-02-16
    Counterfactual Intervention and Agents’ Capacities.Neil Levy - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (5):223-239.
  24. added 2017-12-29
    On Flew’s Compatibilism and His Objections to Theistic Libertarianism.Hakan Gundogdu - 2015 - Kaygı Uludağ University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Journal of Philosophy 25:115-142.
    Flew strongly defends a compatibilist thesis in the free will debate before going on to totally object to theistic libertarianism. His objections basically rely on his compatibilism embracing the notion of agent causation, which is not very common in compatibilist theses. Since he is a strong proponent of ordinary language philosophy, he also holds that linguistic analyses can certainly solve the free will problem as well as many other problems of philosophy. In doing so, he first uses the paradigm cases (...)
  25. added 2017-11-09
    The Explanatory Power of Local Miracle Compatibilism.Garrett Pendergraft - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 156 (2):249-266.
    Local miracle compatibilists claim that we are sometimes able to do otherwise than we actually do, even if causal determinism obtains. When we can do otherwise, it will often be true that if we were to do otherwise, then an actual law of nature would not have been a law of nature. Nevertheless, it is a compatibilist principle that we cannot do anything that would be or cause an event that violates the laws of nature. Carl Ginet challenges this nomological (...)
  26. added 2017-11-07
    Does the Consequence Argument Beg the Question?John Martin Fischer & Garrett Pendergraft - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (3):575-595.
    The Consequence Argument has elicited various responses, ranging from acceptance as obviously right to rejection as obviously problematic in one way or another. Here we wish to focus on one specific response, according to which the Consequence Argument begs the question. This is a serious accusation that has not yet been adequately rebutted, and we aim to remedy that in what follows. We begin by giving a formulation of the Consequence Argument. We also offer some tentative proposals about the nature (...)
  27. added 2017-08-25
    The Truth About Freedom: A Reply to Merricks.J. M. Fischer & P. Todd - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (1):97-115.
    In his recent essay in the Philosophical Review, “Truth and Freedom,” Trenton Merricks contends (among other things) that the basic argument for the incompatibility of God's foreknowledge and human freedom is question-begging. He relies on a “truism” to the effect that truth depends on the world and not the other way around. The present essay argues that mere invocation of this truism does not establish that the basic argument for incompatibilism is question-begging. Further, it seeks to clarify important elements of (...)
  28. added 2017-07-29
    A Response to Coren’s Objections to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities as Sufficient but Not Necessary for Moral Responsibility.Garry Young - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1365-1380.
    In this paper I respond to Coren’s argument against my 2016 paper in which I present a case for the principle of alternate possibilities as sufficient but not necessary for the ascription of moral responsibility ). I concede that Coren has identified aspects of my original position that are vulnerable to counter-examples. Nevertheless, through a simple amendment to my original argument I am able to respond to these counter-examples without undermining the foundations on which my 2016 paper was built. Moreover, (...)
  29. added 2017-07-29
    Leeway Vs. Sourcehood Conceptions of Free Will.Kevin Timpe - 2016 - In Kevin Timpe, Meghan Griffith & Neil Levy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Free Will. Routledge. pp. 213-224.
    One reason that many of the philosophical debates about free will might seem intractable is that di erent participants in those debates use various terms in ways that not only don't line up, but might even contradict each other. For instance, it is widely accepted to understand libertarianism as\the conjunction of incompatibilism [the thesis that free will is incompatible with the truth of determinism] and the thesis that we have free will" (van Inwagen (1983), 13f; see also Kane (2001), 17; (...)
  30. added 2017-07-29
    Free Will: Alternatives and Sources.Kevin Timpe - 2008 - In Ryan Nichols, Fred Miller & Nicholas Smith (eds.), Philosophy Through Science Fiction. New York: Routledge. pp. 397-408.
  31. added 2017-07-29
    Conditions of Moral Responsibility.Gordon Lee Pettit - 2000 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    The conditions of moral responsibility include having the right kind and amount of control over actions, events or states of affairs that are morally significant. Both metaphysical issues and normative concerns are relevant, and these are extensively intertwined. This dissertation proposes a framework for an original theory of moral responsibility. The idea that rational autonomy is required for moral responsibility is developed and defended. I clarify various aspects of rationality and the nature of autonomy in the context of my topic. (...)
  32. added 2017-07-13
    Robustness and Up-to-Us-Ness.Simon Kittle - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (44):35-57.
    Frankfurt-style cases purport to show that an agent can be morally responsible for an action despite not having any alternatives. Some critics have responded by highlighting various alternatives that remain in the cases presented, while Frankfurtians have objected that such alternatives are typically not capable of grounding responsibility. In this essay I address the recent suggestion by Seth Shabo that only alternatives associated with the ‘up to us’ locution ground moral responsibility. I distinguish a number of kinds of ability, suggest (...)
  33. added 2017-06-12
    Able to Do the Impossible.Jack Spencer - 2017 - Mind 126 (502):466-497.
    According to a widely held principle—the poss-ability principle—an agent, S, is able to only if it is metaphysically possible for S to. I argue against the poss-ability principle by developing a novel class of counterexamples. I then argue that the consequences of rejecting the poss-ability principle are interesting and far-reaching.
  34. added 2017-05-24
    Deep Control: Essays on Free Will and Value, by John Martin Fischer. [REVIEW]Simon Kittle - 2016 - Faith and Philosophy 33 (2):235-239.
  35. added 2017-04-13
    Frankfurt-Style Cases and the Explanation Condition for Moral Responsibility: A Reply to Swenson.Florian Cova - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (4):427-446.
    Frankfurt-style cases are supposed to constitute counter-examples to the principle of alternate possibilities, for they are cases in which we have the intuition that an agent is morally responsible for his action, even though he could not have done otherwise. In a recent paper, Swenson rejects this conclusion, on the basis of a comparison between standard FSCs, which typically feature actions, and similar cases involving omissions. Because the absence of alternate possibilities seems to preclude moral responsibility in the cases of (...)
  36. added 2017-04-13
    Vihvelin on Frankfurt-Style Cases and the Actual-Sequence View.Carolina Sartorio - 2016 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 10 (4):875-888.
    This is a critical discussion of Vihvelin’s recent book Causes, Laws, and Free Will. I discuss Vihvelin’s ideas on Frankfurt-style cases and the actual-sequence view of freedom that is inspired by them.
  37. added 2017-04-13
    On the Very Idea of a Robust Alternative.Carlos J. Moya - 2011 - Critica 43 (128):3-26.
    According to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, an agent is morally responsible for an action of hers only if she could have done otherwise. The notion of a robust alternative plays a prominent role in recent attacks on PAP based on so-called Frankfurt cases. In this paper I defend the truth of PAP for blameworthy actions against Frankfurt cases recently proposed by Derk Pereboom and David Widerker. My defence rests on some intuitively plausible principles that yield a new understanding of (...)
  38. added 2017-04-13
    Jamesian Free Will, The Two-Stage Model Of William James.Bob Doyle - 2010 - William James Studies 5:1-28.
    Research into two-stage models of “free will” – first “free” random generation of alternative possibilities, followed by “willed” adequately determined decisions consistent with character, values, and desires – suggests that William James was in 1884 the first of a dozen philosophers and scientists to propose such a two-stage model for free will. We review the later work to establish James’s priority. By limiting chance to the generation of alternative possibilities, James was the first to overcome the standard two-part argument against (...)
  39. added 2017-04-13
    The Deliberative Relevance of Refraining From Deciding: A Response to McKenna and Pereboom. [REVIEW]John Davenport - 2006 - Acta Analytica 21 (4):62 - 88.
    Readers familiar with Harry Frankfurt’s argument that we do not need leeway-liberty (or the power to bring about alternative possible actions or intentions) to be morally responsible will probably also know that the most famous and popular response on behalf of leeway-libertarianism remains a dilemma posed in similar forms by David Widerker, Robert Kane, and Carl Ginet: either the agent retains significant residual leeway in Frankfurt-style cases, or these cases beg the question by presupposing causal determinism. In the last few (...)
  40. added 2017-04-13
    Comments on David Palmer's "Moral Responsibility, Alternative Possibilities, and Determinism: Begging the Question in the Frankfurt Cases".Eric Funkhouser - 2006 - Southwest Philosophy Review 22 (2):91-93.
  41. added 2017-04-13
    Blockage Cases: No Case Against PAP.Carlos J. Moya Espí - 2003 - Critica 35 (104):109-120.
    According to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, an agent is morally responsible for something she has done only if she could have done otherwise. Harry Frankfurt held that PAP was false on the basis of examples in which a counterfactual, and unactivated, device ensures that the agent will decide and do what she actually decides and does on her own, if she shows some sign that she is going to decide and do something else. Problems with these cases have led (...)
  42. added 2017-04-13
    Flickers of Freedom and Frankfurt-Style Cases in the Light of the New Compatibalism of the Stit Theory.Katarzyna Paprzycka - 2002 - Journal of Philosophical Research 27:553-565.
    It is widely assumed that Frankfurt-style cases provide a reason for rejecting incompatibilism because they provide a reason for rejecting the requirement that the agent be able to do otherwise. One compatibilist strategy for dealing with the cases, pursued by Fischer and Ravizza, is to weaken the mentioned requirement. An analogous strategy on the part of the incompatibilist, which appears to be unexplored in the literature on moral responsibility, is exemplified in Belnap and Perloff ’s logic of agency. I show (...)
  43. added 2017-04-13
    The Concept of Generic Personal Responsibility.Joan M. Pryor Mccann - 1995 - Dissertation, The Ohio State University
    This dissertation deals with the concept of responsibility. In Chapter I, I analyze two sub-classes of responsibility: mere causal responsibility and personal responsibility. The particular focus of the paper is generic personal responsibility; i.e., generic in the sense that it is not confined to a specific type of personal responsibility, and personal in the sense that it applies only to persons. In Section 2.1 of Chapter II, I establish the concept of generic personal responsibility by arguing that it is the (...)
  44. added 2017-04-13
    Ability and Being Able to Do Otherwise.Kadri Vihvelin - 1989 - Dissertation, Cornell University
    The free will debate is a modal one--if determinism is true, can agents ever do other than what they do? Compatibilists have tried to show that statements about what an agent could have done are deductible to statements about what she would have done if certain conditions had obtained. But recent developments in modal logic and the logic of counterfactuals provide arguments that no such analysis can succeed. There is in the literature no satisfactory reply to these arguments, and some (...)
  45. added 2017-04-10
    A Funny Picture of Freedom, and How to Treat It.Donald R. Barker - 1976 - Behavior and Philosophy 4 (1):119.
  46. added 2017-02-24
    On the Signpost Principle of Alternate Possibilities: Why Contemporary Frankfurt-Style Cases Are Irrelevant to the Free Will Debate.Simkulet William - 2015 - Filosofiska Notiser 2 (3):107-120.
    This article contends that recent attempts to construct Frankfurt-style cases (FSCs) are irrelevant to the debate over free will. The principle of alternate possibilities (PAP) states that moral responsibility requires indeterminism, or multiple possible futures. Frankfurt's original case purported to demonstrate PAP false by showing an agent can be blameworthy despite not having the ability to choose otherwise; however he admits the agent can come to that choice freely or by force, and thus has alternate possibilities. Neo-FSCs attempt to show (...)
  47. added 2017-02-24
    Incompatibalism, Nondeterministic Causation, and the Real Problem of Free Will.Patrick Francken - 1993 - Journal of Philosophical Research 18:37-63.
    I argue that there cannot be a sense attached to “could have done otherwise” that is both compatible with the truth of determinism and relevant to the question of free will. Then I develop an incompatibilist response to the common objection that the incompatibilist requires of free actions that they have no causes and therefore cannot be anything for which an agent can be responsible. In the process, I bring out a similarity between compatibilism and incompatibilism in respect of where (...)
  48. added 2017-02-15
    Charity in Fashion: A Look at Bennetton's Latest Campaign and Finds Style More Evident Than.G. Mead - forthcoming - Substance.
  49. added 2017-02-14
    David Colander and Harry Landreth.Formalism Pluralism - 2008 - In Edward Fullbrook (ed.), Pluralist Economics. Distributed in the Usa Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 26.
  50. added 2017-02-14
    Bullshitting Bulshitters and the Bullshit They Say.A. Sneddon - 2007 - In Jason Holt (ed.), The Daily Show and Philosophy: Moments of Zen in the Art of Fake News. Blackwell. pp. 146--159.
    It is fitting that The Daily Show had Harry Frankfurt as a guest: Frankfurt is the author of the popular “On Bullshit”, and one aim of The Daily Show, especially in its 1st and 2nd segments, is to call out bullshit as they see it. The assumption, both of the show and of its admirers, seems to be that identifying bullshit is always morally and politically significant (not to mention funny, but this aspect is not my focus). The aim of (...)
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