The Dialectical Advantage of the Direct Argument

Erkenntnis 79 (2):431-444 (2014)
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Traditionally, incompatibilists about moral responsibility and determinism claim that we cannot be morally responsible unless we could have done otherwise and that we cannot do otherwise if we are determined. The Direct Argument for incompatibilism supposedly offers its defenders a dialectical advantage over this traditional approach insofar as it does not appear to rely on either of these controversial claims. Recently, though, David Widerker has argued against this supposition and urged that it is time to say farewell to the Direct Argument. I examine two of Widerker’s criticisms and argue that, while they are not compelling, a revised version of one does show that supporters of the Direct Argument will very likely need to deny that an agent could do otherwise if determinism is true. I conclude that, nevertheless, the Direct Argument may still have considerable dialectical appeal and that neither of Widerker’s criticisms should lead us to say goodbye to it just yet



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Jeremy Byrd
Tarrant County College

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References found in this work

Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility.John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza - 1998 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mark Ravizza.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829-839.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry Frankfurt - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: a guide and anthology. Oxford University Press UK.

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