Moral Responsibility and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise

Philosophy Research Archives 8:499-512 (1982)
This paper evaluates three recent attacks on what Harry Frankfurt has called the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), i.e., the principle that if a person could not have done otherwise he is not morally responsible for what he has done. One critic of PAP argues that, if a person was drawn irresistibly to a drug yet was “altogether delighted with his condition”, he might well be morally responsible even though he could not have done otherwise. A second critic describes circumstances in which, if the agent had failed to perform a certain action, physical forces would have taken effect and caused him to perform that action. Such a person, he argues, may be morally responsible for what he has done even though he could not have done otherwise. I argue that both of the preceding counterexamples fail. The third argument against PAP shows, I maintain, that PAP is not acceptable as it stands; appropriately supplemented, however, it will continue to serve its traditional role in the compatibilist-incompatibilist debate
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0164-0771
DOI 10.5840/pra1982810
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