Erkenntnis 79 (3):669-685 (2014)

Peter Schulte
University of Zürich
The compatibilism debate revolves around the question whether moral responsibility and free will are compatible with determinism. Prima facie, this seems to be a substantial issue. But according to the triviality objection, the disagreement is merely verbal: compatibilists and incompatibilists, it is maintained, are talking past each other, since they use the terms “free will” and “moral responsibility” in different senses. In this paper I argue, first, that the triviality objection is indeed a formidable one and that the standard replies to it are unconvincing. This, however, does not mean that the objection succeeds. Starting with the debate about moral responsibility, I attempt to show that there is an account of moral responsibility which enables us to defend the compatibilism debate against the charge of triviality—namely, the normative conception of moral responsibility. If “moral responsibility” is defined in normative terms, then we cannot distinguish between a compatibilist and an incompatibilist sense of “moral responsibility”, because such a disambiguation would be inconsistent with the essential action-guiding force of normative expressions. Finally, I examine how the normative conception of moral responsibility can help us to defend the free will debate against the triviality objection and draw some general conclusions.
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9530-8
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References found in this work BETA

An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Agents’ Abilities.Romy Jaster - 2020 - Berlin, New York: De Gruyter.
Responsibility and Appropriate Blame: The No Difference View.Leonhard Menges - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (2):393-409.
Verbal Disagreements and Philosophical Scepticism.Nathan Ballantyne - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (4):752-765.
Grounding Responsibility in Appropriate Blame.Leonhard Menges - 2017 - American Philosophical Quarterly 54 (1):15-24.
Free Will, Determinism, and the Right Levels of Description.Leonhard Menges - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations 1:1-18.

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