Moral Responsibility and the Ability to Do Otherwise

Journal of Philosophical Research 30:303-319 (2005)
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Frankfurt-style examples (FSEs) cast doubt on the initially plausible claim that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility. Following the lead of Peter van Inwagen and others, I argue that if we are careful in distinguishing events by causal origins, then we see that FSEs fail to show that one may be morally responsible for x, yet have no alternatives to x. I provide reasons for a fine-grained causal origins approach to events apart from the context of moral responsibility, and respond to the objection that moral responsibility depends on abstract entities other than events. In response to John Martin Fischer and others, I argue that the alternatives available in recent FSEs are robust enough for moral responsibility. If one thinks that the ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral responsibility, the FSEs give no reason to relinquish this belief



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Gordon Pettit
Western Illinois University

Citations of this work

A critique of Frankfurt-libertarianism.Kevin Timpe - 2006 - Philosophia 34 (2):189-202.
The Flicker of Freedom: A Reply to Stump.Justin A. Capes - 2014 - The Journal of Ethics 18 (4):427-435.
Causal History Matters, but Not for Individuation.Kevin Timpe - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (1):77-91.

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References found in this work

Recent work on moral responsibility.John Fischer - 1999 - Ethics 110 (1):93–139.
Rescuing Frankfurt-style cases.Alfred R. Mele & David Robb - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (1):97-112.
Events.David Lewis - 1986 - In Philosophical Papers Vol. II. Oxford University Press. pp. 241-269.
Ability and Responsibility.Peter van Inwagen - 1978 - Philosophical Review 87 (2):201 - 224.

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