Moral responsibility, determinism, and the ability to do otherwise

The Journal of Ethics 3 (4):343-351 (1999)
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Abstract

In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both parties had attributed to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this.

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Peter Van Inwagen
University of Notre Dame

References found in this work

Ability and Responsibility.Peter van Inwagen - 1978 - Philosophical Review 87 (2):201 - 224.

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