On an argument for the impossibility of moral responsibility

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):13-24 (2005)
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Galen Strawson has published several versions of an argument to the effect that moral responsibility is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. Few philosophers have been persuaded by the argument, which Strawson remarks is often dismissed “as wrong, or irrelevant, or fatuous, or too rapid, or an expression of metaphysical megalomania.” I offer here a two-part explanation of why Strawson’s argument has impressed so few. First, as he usually states it, the argument is lacking at least one key premise. The premise in question concerns the very point on which Strawson and many of his contemporary opponents disagree. Strawson will persuade these opponents only when he convinces them of the truth of this crucial premise. Second, Strawson employs a striking conception of responsibility that has not generally been remarked upon. Many might accept that responsibility so conceived is impossible. But there is very different conception of responsibility that appears of great importance to us. To be thoroughly convincing, Strawson will have to show either that this second conception is inadequate or that his argument goes through even given this alternative conception.



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Author's Profile

Randolph Clarke
Florida State University

References found in this work

Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.

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