Moral Responsibility and Control: An Actual-Sequence Approach

Dissertation, Yale University (1992)
Mark Ravizza
Santa Clara University
This work presents an "actual-sequence" model of moral responsibility. In contrast to many traditional views, an "actual-sequence" model holds that ascriptions of moral responsibility do not necessarily depend upon whether agents are free to pursue alternative courses of action; rather what is important is what the agents actually do, and how their actions come to be performed. ;Part One of this work sketches an actual-sequence theory that associates moral responsibility with control. I motivate this approach through a series of "Frankfurt-type" examples which illustrate that even though agents lack alternative possibilities, they still may be held responsible in virtue of freely bringing about an event; such agents are said to exercise "actual causal control." The proposed theory has the important advantage of reconciling responsibility and causal determinism, even if determinism is incompatible with freedom to do otherwise. The next two chapters aim to defend this "semi-compatibilist" view against a variety of objections. Chapter 3 addresses a range of objections which can be raised against the Frankfurt-type examples. Chapter 4 addresses Peter van Inwagen's "direct" argument which purports to show that responsibility and determinism are incompatible. ;Part Two of this work presents a more precise analysis of actual causal control. Through an examination of several approaches , Chapters 5 and 6 develop an analysis of control which is based on the idea that in order to be responsible, agents must act in ways that are responsive to an appropriate pattern of both moral and non-moral reasons. Chapter 7 expands this account by arguing that ascriptions of responsibility depend not only on the current responsiveness of an agent, but also on the history which leads to this pattern of response. To support this point, I sketch an account of the process of taking responsibility which captures one way in which historical considerations play an important role in our ascriptions of moral responsibility
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