Moral Responsibility, Manipulation Arguments, and History: Assessing the Resilience of Nonhistorical Compatibilism [Book Review]

The Journal of Ethics 16 (2):145-174 (2012)
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Abstract

Manipulation arguments for incompatibilism all build upon some example or other in which an agent is covertly manipulated into acquiring a psychic structure on the basis of which she performs an action. The featured agent, it is alleged, is manipulated into satisfying conditions compatibilists would take to be sufficient for acting freely. Such an example used in the context of an argument for incompatibilism is meant to elicit the intuition that, due to the pervasiveness of the manipulation, the agent does not act freely and is not morally responsible for what she does. It is then claimed that any agent's coming to be in the same psychic state through a deterministic process is no different in any relevant respect from the pertinent manner of manipulation. Hence, it is concluded that compatibilists' proposed sufficient conditions for free will and moral responsibility are inadequate, and that free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. One way for compatibilists to resist certain manipulation arguments is by appealing to historical requirements that, they contend, relevant manipulated agents lack. While a growing number of compatibilists advance an historical thesis, in this paper, I redouble my efforts to show, in defense of nonhistorical compatibilists like Harry Frankfurt, that there is still life left in a nonhistorical view. The historical compatibilists, I contend, have fallen shy of discrediting their nonhistorical compatibilist rivals.

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Michael McKenna
University of Arizona

Citations of this work

The objects of moral responsibility.Andrew Khoury - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1357-1381.
Free actions as a natural kind.Oisín Deery - 2021 - Synthese 198 (1):823-843.
The Zygote Argument is invalid: Now what?Kristin Mickelson - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (11):2911-2929.
Manipulation and constitutive luck.Taylor W. Cyr - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (8):2381-2394.
Compatibilism and personal identity.Benjamin Matheson - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (2):317-334.

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References found in this work

Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.

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