In this essay I shall begin by sketching a "Frankfurt-type example." I shall then lay out a disturbing challenge to the claim I have made above that these examples help us to make significant progress in the debates about the relationship between moral responsibility and causal determinism. I then will provide a reply to this challenge, and the reply will point toward a more refined formulation of the important contribution I believe Frankfurt has made to defending a certain (...) sort of compatibilism. (shrink)
The work of the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács is a constant source of controversy in the history of the Frankfurt School. All leading thinkers of that theoretical tradition have struggled with Lukács’s theory. On the one hand, it was an inspiration for their attempts to come to terms with the oppressive features of capitalist modernity. On the other hand, both its political conclusions and Lukács’s actual philosophical submission to Soviet orthodoxy seemed to show that his theoretical framework was deeply (...) flawed in one aspect or another. (shrink)
Almost thirty years ago, in an attempt to undermine what he termed "the principle of alternate possibilities" (the thesis that people are morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise), Harry Frankfurt offered an ingenious thought-experiment that has played a major role in subsequent work on moral responsibility and free will. Several philosophers, including David Widerker and Robert Kane, argued recently that this thought-experiment and others like it are fundamentally flawed. This paper develops (...) a new Frankfurt-style example that is immune to their objections. [Reprinted in Laura Waddell Ekstrom, ed., Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom (Westview Press, 2001), pp. 241-54; and in John Martin Fischer, ed., Free Will, Vol. III (Routledge, 2005), pp. 330-42.]. (shrink)
The indirect argument (IA) for incompatibilism is based on the principle that an action to which there is no alternative is unfree, which we shall call ‘PA’. According to PA, to freely perform an action A, it must not be the case that one has ‘no choice’ but to perform A. The libertarian and hard determinist advocates of PA must deny that free will would exist in a deterministic world, since no agent in such a world would perform an action (...) to which there were alternatives: an action there being the necessary consequence of preceding events and the laws of nature, it would not be possible for a person to perform actions besides those he actually performs. Determinism is seen here as “indirectly” ruling out free will by making the satisfaction of a necessary condition of free agency impossible, the former requiring, according to the leading proponent of libertarianism, Robert Kane, the performance of free actions. To have a free will, on his view, is to have committed “self-forming” actions, that is, to have done things to which there were alternatives the doing of which led to the development of the desires, preferences, and beliefs that make up one’s character. -/- The range of phenomena obeying probabilistic laws has yet to be ascertained. Under certain assumptions, both STR and GTR entail an indeterministic mechanics. But, contrary what is often claimed, quanta do not behave indeterministicly: the wave function/probabilistic laws being necessary only insofar as we wish to macroscopicly describe their behavior. It is far less clear, however, that the macro-events involved in human decision making and behavior, such as the releasing of neurotransmitters and the contracting of muscles, occur indeterministically. The ontological status of these events-whether or not they are the necessary effects of prior occurrences-is, of course, what matters in the free will debate. For present purposes, however, this question will be put aside. Instead, I will concentrate on buttressing the existing case against PA, aiming to show that even if deterministic laws hold at the level of macro-phenomena, free will remains a possibility. That is to say, I shall defend the thesis that so-called “Frankfurt cases” demonstrate that alternatives are not required to perform an action that is free in the sense of being something for which its agent is responsible. -/- My defense will be carried out in three stages. First, I must respond to those who maintain that a Frankfurt case is not a counterexample to PA because it is not an example of someone acting without alternatives. Here, I confront the question of how “robust” an alternative must bein order to provide an agent with a way of avoiding praise or blame for the action that she actually commits. Secondly, I must show that an agent may be praiseworthy or blameworthy despite lacking alternatives at the time at which she acts, i.e., an appropriate object of one of a Strawsonian “reactive attitude” sans what I shall call “local” alternatives. At this point, I must attend to David Widerker’s recent critique of the use of Frankfurt cases as counterexamples to PA. Finally, I set for myself what I take to be the most difficult task of a compatibilist: demonstrating that not even an “historical” alternative-the possibility of having chosen a different path in life than the one that one has actually taken-is needed to have a free will. In this connection, it will be incumbent upon me to explain why it would be fair to hold someone accountable for behavior issuing from a self she did not create, dispositions originating from natural conditions she did not establish. That is to say, in denying that a free will entails the ability to transcend oneself, I shall be faced with what Kane calls the “ultimacy” problem: how to explain away the incompatibilist’s intuition that it is senseless to adopt a reactive attitude towards someone incapable of self-transcendence, even if such a reaction is itself unavoidable. By showing that the desire for self-transcendence is itself irrational, I intend to solve this problem. I will, thus, be left defending a version of compatibilism according to which a free will is to be understood as a healthy faculty-the will-being exercised in an environment conducive to self-realization, which is its purpose. (shrink)
The publication of Harry Frankfurt’s 1986 essay “On Bullshit,” and especially its republication as a book in 2005, have sparked a great deal of interest in the philosophical analysis of the concept of bullshit. The present essay seeks to contribute to the ever-widening discussion of the concept by applying it to the realm of advertising. First, it is argued that Frankfurt’s definition of bullshit is too narrow, and an alternative definition is defended that accommodates both Frankfurt’s truth-indifferent (...) bullshit and what is here termed “culpably confused bullshit.” Second, it is explained why a great deal of advertising constitutes bullshit so defined.The essay concludes by making the case that bullshitting in general is clearly unethical on both Utilitarian and Kantian grounds. (shrink)
Many find it intuitive that having been manipulated undermines a person's free will. Some have objected to accounts of free will like Harry Frankfurt's (according to which free will depends only on an agent's psychological structure at the time of action) by arguing that it is possible for manipulated agents, who are intuitively unfree, to satisfy Frankfurt's allegedly sufficient conditions for freedom. Drawing resources from Greg Egan's "Reasons to Be Cheerful" as well as from stories of psychologically sophisticated (...) artificial intelligence (such as Isaac Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man"), I rebut this objection to "structuralist" accounts of free will, arguing that the very possibility of free will for persons like us requires that we admit that a person can be free even when lacking control over the character from which she acts. I conclude with some implications for the freedom and personhood of artificial intelligences. (shrink)
‘Frankfurt-style cases’ (FSCs) are widely considered as having refuted the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) by presenting cases in which an agent is morally responsible even if he could not have done otherwise. However, Neil Levy (J Philos 105:223–239, 2008) has recently argued that FSCs fail because we are not entitled to suppose that the agent is morally responsible, given that the mere presence of a counterfactual intervener is enough to make an agent lose responsibility-grounding abilities. Here, I distinguish (...) two kinds of Frankfurt counter-arguments against the PAP: the direct and the indirect counter-arguments. I then argue that Levy’s argument, if valid, can shed doubt on the indirect argument but leaves the direct argument untouched. I conclude that FSCs can still do their job, even if we grant that the mere presence of a counterfactual intervener can modify an agent’s abilities. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there is an important anomaly to the causalist/compatibilist paradigm in the philosophy of action and free will. This anomaly, which to my knowledge has gone unnoticed so far, can be found in the philosophy of Harry Frankfurt. Two of his most important contributions to the field – his influential counterexample to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities and his ‘guidance’ view of action – are incompatible. The importance of this inconsistency goes far beyond the (...) issue of coherence within Frankfurt’s philosophy. I shall argue that this inconsistency represents an important anomaly within the causalist/compatibilist framework; so that we should start to seriously consider having to move on from the established paradigm. (shrink)
According to Frankfurt’s analysis, bullshitting and lying necessarily differ in intention. I argue contra Frankfurt that (i) bullshitting can be lying, and that (ii) bullshitting need involve neither misrepresentation nor intention to deceive. My discussion suggests that bullshit is not capturable by a simple formula and that, although illuminating, Frankfurt’s analysis is limited to one paradigm.
The principle of alternative possibilities tells us that an agent is morally responsible for an action only if he could have done otherwise. Frankfurt-style cases provide an extremely influential challenge to the PAP . And Frankfurt-style compatibilists are motivated to accept compatibilism about responsibility and determinism in part due to FSCs. But there is a significant tension between our judgments about responsibility in FSCs and our judgments about responsibility in certain omissions cases. This tension has thus far largely (...) been treated as an internal puzzle for defenders of FSCs to solve. My goal here is to regiment this tension into a clear argument which undermines the FSC based critique of PAP. I will also argue that there is an in principle reason to doubt that Frankfurt-Style Compatibilists will be able to successfully respond to my argument. (shrink)
Both Martin Heidegger and Harry Frankfurt have argued that the fundamental feature of human identity is care. Both contend that caring is bound up with the fact that we are finite beings related to our own impending death, and both argue that caring has a distinctive, circular and non-instantaneous, temporal structure. In this paper, I explore the way Heidegger and Frankfurt each understand the relations among care, death, and time, and I argue for the superiority of Heideggerian version (...) of this nest of claims. Frankfurt claims that we should conceive of the most basic commitments which practically orient a person in the world and define his identity (“volitional necessities”) as naturalistic facts, foundational for and located completely without the normative space of reasons. In support of this he appeals to the supposedly foundational role played in human life by the instinct for self-preservation, what Frankfurt calls the “love of living.” The claim is that in questions of practical identity there is a definite priority of the factual over the normative. Frankfurt’s naturalistic model of volitional necessity is motivated by a misunderstanding of the temporal structure of care, a misunderstanding that helps lead him to an implausible conception of the basic structures of human identity. Heidegger advances an anti-naturalistic conception of caring, one bound up with his way of understanding how human beings relate to their own future. I argue that the existential, temporal, and normative significance that Frankfurt attributes to the naturalized “love of living” is better captured by the Heideggerian claim that human identity is defined by being “for-the-sake-of” certain projects and commitments, a way of being lived out in the way Heidegger calls “being-towards-death.”. (shrink)
Introduction: the question of reason -- The Frankfurt School critique of reason -- Habermas's communicative rationality -- Macintyre's tradition-constituted reason -- A substantive reason -- Beyond relativism: reasonable progress and learning from -- Conclusion: toward a Thomistic-Aristotelian critical theory of society.
According to the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP), a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. In what follows, I want to defend this principle against an apparent counterexample offered recently by Derk Pereboom (Living without free will, 2001; Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 29: 228-247, 2005). Pereboom's case, a variant of what are known as Trankfurt cases,' is important for it attempts to overcome a dilemma posed for earlier alleged counterexamples to (...) PAP. However, I will argue that by paying closer attention to the details of Pereboom's example, we see that his example fails to show a way between the horns of the dilemma posed for the earlier Frankfurt examples. (shrink)
Frankfurt cases are purported counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, which implies that we are not morally responsible for unavoidable actions. A major permutation of the counterexample strategy features buffered alternatives; this permutation is designed to overcome an influential defense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. Here we defend the buffering strategy against two recent objections, both of which stress the timing of an agent’s decision. We argue that attributions of moral responsibility aren’t time-sensitive in the way the (...) objectors suppose. We then turn to the crucial question of when an action is relevantly avoidable—when, in the parlance of the literature, an alternative possibility is robust. We call attention to two plausible tests for robustness that merit further consideration, showing that the agents in buffered Frankfurt cases don’t pass these tests, despite being morally responsible for their actions. (shrink)
In saying that it was up to someone whether or not she acted as she did, we are attributing a distinctive sort of power to her. Understanding such power attributions is of broad importance for contemporary discussions of free will. Yet the ‘is up to…whether’ locution and its cognates have largely escaped close examination. This article aims to elucidate one of its unnoticed features, namely that such power attributions introduce intensional contexts, something that is easily overlooked because the sentences that (...) express these attributions admit of both intensional and extensional readings. I argue that this kind of power attribution should inform discussions of Frankfurt’s counterexample strategy, in that an alternative possibility should not be considered robust unless it’s up to the agent whether or not it’s realized. I argue, as well, that understanding robust alternatives in this way sheds light on the relationship between the Frankfurt literature and the Luck Objection to libertarianism. (shrink)
In a recent article, David Hunt has proposed a theological counterexample to the principle of alternative possibilities involving divine foreknowledge. Hunt claims that this example is immune to my criticism of regular Frankfurt-type counterexamples to that principle, as God’s foreknowing an agent’s act does not causally determine that act. Furthermore, he claims that the considerations which support the claim that the agent is morally responsible for his act in a Frankfurt-type scenario also hold in a G-scenario. In reply, (...) Icontest Hunt’s symmetry claim and also raise a worry whether, given theological fatalism, the agent’s act in a G-scenario can be deemed a free act in the libertarian sense. Finally, I offer an independent argument why in a G-scenario the agent should not regarded morally blameworthy for his act. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to present a version of the principle of alternate possibilities which is not susceptible to the Frankfurt-style counter-example. I argue that PAP does not need to be endorsed as a necessary condition for moral responsibility and, in fact, presenting PAP as a sufficient condition maintains its usefulness as a maxim for moral accountability whilst avoiding Frankfurt-style counter-examples. In addition, I provide a further sufficient condition for moral responsibility – the twin world condition (...) – and argue that this provides a means of justifying why the protagonist in Frankfurt-style scenarios is still felt to be morally responsible. I conclude with the claim that neither the amended PAP nor the twin world condition is necessary for the ascription of moral responsibility; rather, what is necessary is simply that one of these conditions is satisfied. (shrink)
According to the Dilemma Defense, it is question-begging against the incompatibilist defender of the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) to assume that the agent in a deterministic Frankfurt-style case (FSC) cannot do otherwise in light of causal determinism, but is nevertheless morally responsible. As a result, Fischer (Philos Rev 119:315–336, 2010; Analysis 73:489–496, 2013) attempts to undermine PAP in a different manner via a deterministic FSC. More specifically, Fischer attempts to show that if causal determinism rules out an agent’s (...) moral responsibility, it is not in virtue of its eliminating the agent’s alternative possibilities. I contend that, once we focus upon the distinction between entailment and explanation, the incompatibilist defender of PAP can successfully rebut Fischer’s argument. I argue for this claim while granting Fischer a number of assumptions that only render a defense of PAP more difficult. Additionally, I cast doubt upon Palmer’s (Synthese 191:3847–3864, 2014) critique of Fischer’s argument, which in turn renders my defense of PAP all the more critical. (shrink)
“Frankfurt-style cases” are widely considered as having refuted the Principle of Alternate Possibilities by presenting cases in which an agent is morally responsible even if he could not have done otherwise. However, Neil Levy has recently argued that FSCs fail because our intuitions about cases involving counterfactual interveners are inconsistent, and this inconsistency is best explained by the fact that our intuitions about such cases are grounded in an internalist prejudice about the location of mental states and capacities. In (...) response to this challenge, we argue that there is no inconsistency in our intuitions about cases involving CIs, as soon as we draw the comparison properly, and that intuitions about such cases do not rest on an internalist prejudice, but on a more basic distinction between two kinds of dispositions. Additionally, we discus... (shrink)
In this paper I refute an apparently obvious objection to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities according to which if in the counterfactual scenario the agent does not act, then the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. And because what happens in the counterfactual scenario cannot count as the relevant agent's actions given the sort of external control that agent is under, then we can ground responsibility on that agent having been able to avoid (...) acting. I illustrate how this objection to Frankfurt's famous counterexample is motivated by Frankfurt's own 'guidance' view of agency. My argument consists in showing that even if we concede that the agent does not act in the counterfactual scenario, that does not show that the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. This depends on the crucial distinction between 'not φ-ing' and 'avoiding φ-ing'. (shrink)
A great deal of attention has been paid recently to the claim that traditional Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), which depend for their success on the presence of a perfectly reliable indicator (or prior sign ) of what an agent will freely do if left to act on his own, are guilty of begging the question against incompatibilists, since such indicators seem to presuppose a deterministic relation between an agent’s free action and its causal antecedents. (...) Objections of this sort have given rise to considerable efforts to construct alternative Frankfurt-type counterexamples that do not rely on prior signs of this kind and so do not presuppose determinism in a way that incompatibilists should find objectionable. One consequence of this shift in the way Frankfurt-type counterexamples are formulated is that it provides an opportunity for the forceful resurgence of certain versions of the so-called flicker defense of PAP. In this paper I develop two versions of the flicker defense, indicate their advantages over other versions of this strategy, and defend them against objections. Insofar as either of these is successful, it will show not only that PAP has yet to be falsified by any of the modified Frankfurt-type counterexamples currently on offer but that cases of this sort are in principle incapable of falsifying PAP. (shrink)
I assess Robert Kane's view that global Frankfurt-type cases don't show that freedom to do otherwise is never required for moral responsibility. I first adumbrate Kane's indeterminist account of free will.This will help us grasp Kane's notion of ultimate responsibility, and his claim that in a global Frankfurt-type case, the counterfactual intervener could not control all of the relevant agent's actions in the Frankfurt manner, and some of those actions would be such that the agent could have (...) done otherwise. Appealing to considerations of responsibility and luck, I then show that the global cases survive Kane's objections. (shrink)
Three recent ‘state of the art’ Frankfurt cases are responded to: Widerker’s Brain-Malfunction-W case and Pereboom’s Tax Evasion cases (2 & 3). These cases are intended by their authors to resurrect the neo-Frankfurt project of overturning the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) in the teeth of the widespread acceptance of some combination of the WKG (Widerker-Kane-Ginet) dilemma, the Flicker of Freedom strategy and the revised PAP response (‘Principle of Alternative Blame’, ‘Principle of Alternative Expectations’). The three neo-Frankfurt (...) cases of Pereboom and Widerker shown to be insufficient for their intended purpose. Of central importance to any account of responsibility is that this applies at the level of the Right and not the Good. Arguments of Carlos Moya are expanded and augmented by considerations from Chisholm, Lucas, Dummett and Lockie (2003) to show that a number of severe problems remain for anyone attempting to resurrect the Frankfurt project. (shrink)
Philosophers employing Frankfurt-style cases to challenge the principle of alternative possibilities have mostly sought to construct scenarios that eliminate as many of an agent’s alternatives as possible—and all alternatives at the moment of action, within the agent’s control—without causally determining the agent’s actions. One of the chief difficulties for this traditional approach is that the closer one gets to ruling out absolutely all alternative possibilities the more it appears that agents’ actions in these cases are causally determined. “Limited-blockage” versions (...) of these cases are meant to sidestep this worry by blocking all and only those alternatives that are intrinsically relevant to moral responsibility (“robust alternatives”) while leaving open all other alternatives, including a significant range of alternatives that are within the agent’s voluntary control at the moment of action. I argue that, owing to the fact that omissions (and not just actions) are capable of constituting robust alternative possibilities, limited-blockage cases cannot avoid collapsing into the more traditional sort of Frankfurt-style case to which they are meant to be an alternative and so are vulnerable to the very same concerns they are meant to avoid. (shrink)
Frankfurt sets out to refute the principle according to which ‘a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise’ . Frankfurt devises a counterexample in which an agent is intuitively responsible even though she could not have done otherwise: Suppose someone – Black, let us say – wants Jones to perform a certain action. Black is prepared to go to considerable lengths to get his way, but he prefers to avoid (...) showing his hand unnecessarily. So he waits until Jones is about to make up his mind what to do, and he does nothing unless it is clear to him that Jones is going to decide to do something other than what he wants him to do. If it does become clear that Jones is going to decide to do something else, Black takes effective steps to ensure that Jones decides to do, and that he does do, what he wants him to do. Whatever Jones's initial preferences and inclinations, then, Black will have his way … Now suppose that Black never has to show his hand because Jones, for reasons of his own, decides to perform and does perform the very action Black wants him to perform. In that case, it seems clear, Jones will bear precisely …. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine a new line of response to Frankfurt’s challenge to the traditional association of moral responsibility with the ability to do otherwise. According to this response, Frankfurt’s counterexample strategy fails, not in light of the conditions for moral responsibility per se, but in view of the conditions for action. Specifically, it is claimed, a piece of behavior counts as an action only if it is within the agent’s power to avoid performing it. In so (...) far as Frankfurt’s challenge presupposes that actions can be unavoidable, this view of action seems to bring his challenge up short. Helen Steward and Maria Alvarez have independently proposed versions of this response. Here I argue that this response is unavailable to Frankfurt’s incompatibilist opponents. This becomes evident when we put this question to its proponents: “Are actions that originate deterministically ipso facto unavoidable?” If they answer “yes,” they encounter one horn of a dilemma. If they answer “no,” they encounter the other horn. Since no one has a clearer stake in meeting Frankfurt’s challenge than these theorists do, it is significant that the Steward-Alvarez response is unavailable to them. (shrink)
Most libertarians think that some version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) is true. A number of libertarians, which I call ‘Frankfurt-libertarians,’ think that they need not embrace any version of PAP. In this paper, I examine the writings of one such Frankfurt-libertarian, Eleonore Stump, for her evaluation of the impact of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP. I show how, contrary to her own claims, Stump does need a PAP-like principle for her account of free action. (...) I briefly argue that this discussion also goes some distance to showing that any Frankfurt-libertarian is in a similar position regarding the need for some PAP-like principle. If I am correct, then Frankfurt-libertarians must either renounce their incompatibilism or concede that FSCs fail to show all PAP-like principles to be false. (shrink)
Harry g frankfurt gave what has been taken to be a counter-Example to the principle that, "a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise." I argue that in his case the agent cannot be morally responsible for what he did, Because it was not within his power not to be compelled to do it. So frankfurt's case is not a counter-Example to this principle.
The new dispositionalists defend the position that an agent in a deterministic Frankfurt-style case has the ability to do otherwise, where that ability is the one at issue in the principle of alternative possibilities. Focusing specifically on Kadri Vihvelin's proposal, I argue against this position by showing that it is incompatible with the existence of structurally similar cases to FSCs in which a preemptive intervener bestows an agent with an ability.
In this paper we argue that defenders of Frankfurt-style counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities do not need to construct a metaphysically possible scenario in which an agent is morally responsible despite lacking the ability to do otherwise. Rather, there is a weaker (but equally legitimate) sense in which Frankfurt-style counterexamples can succeed. All that's needed is the claim that the ability to do otherwise is no part of what grounds moral responsibility, when the agent is indeed (...) morally responsible. (shrink)
Pereboom has formulated a Frankfurt-style counterexample in which an agent is alleged to be responsible despite the fact that there are only non-robust alternatives present (Pereboom, Moral responsibility and alternative possibilities: essays on the importance of alternative possibilities, 2003; Phil Explor 12(2):109–118, 2009). I support Widerker’s objection to Pereboom’s Tax Evasion 2 example (Widerker, J Phil 103(4):163–187, 2006) (which rests on the worry that the agent in this example is derivatively culpable as opposed to directly responsible) against Pereboom’s recent (...) counterarguments to this objection (Pereboom 2009). Building on work by Moya (J Phil 104:475–486, 2007; Critica 43(128):3–26, 2011) and Widerker (Widerker 2006), I argue that there is good reason to measure the robustness of alternatives in terms of comparative, rather than non-comparative likelihood of exemption, where the important factor for blame is whether the agent is “doing her reasonable best” to avoid blameworthy behaviour. I maintain that an agent only ever appears responsible when alternatives are robust in this sense. In Pereboom’s examples, both Tax Evasion 2, and his more recent version, Tax Evasion 3 (Pereboom 2009), I maintain the robustness of the alternatives, so understood, is unclear. We can clear up any ambiguity by sharpening the examples, and the result is that the agent appears responsible when the alternatives are made clearly robust, and does not appear responsible when alternatives appear clearly non-robust. The comparative nature of our judgements about blame, I maintain helps to explain the continuing appeal of the “leeway-incompatibilist” viewpoint. (shrink)
In this paper I tie together the reasoning used in the Consequence Argument with the intuitions that drive Frankfurt cases in a way that illuminates some of the underlying differences between compatibilists and incompatibilists. I begin by explaining the ‘basic mechanism’ at work in Frankfurt cases: the existence of sufficient conditions for an outcome that do not actually bring about that outcome. I suggest that other potential threats to free will, such as God’s foreknowledge, can be understood in (...) terms of this basic mechanism. I then turn to the Consequence argument, which concludes that determinism precludes free will, and I adopt the structure of this argument to create parallel ‘progeny’ arguments using the basic mechanism of Frankfurt cases. By thus forcing the Consequence argument and Frankfurt cases into such close proximity, we can see more clearly some of the crucial issues that separate incompatibilists and compatibilists. Doing so will illustrate that for determinism to be a threat to free will requires a particular conception of the laws of nature, one that is more specific and robust than suggested by the Consequence argument alone. I conclude by showing how these questions about laws of nature lead the free will debate towards the mind-body debate and questions about reductionism and supervenience. (shrink)
Frankfurt examples are frequently used in arguments designed to show that agents lacking alternatives, or lacking ‘regulative control’ over their actions, can be morally responsible for what they do. I will maintain that Frankfurt examples can be constructed that undermine those very arguments when applied to actions for which the agent bears fundamental responsibility.
I will argue that the Kane-Widerker objection to Frankfurt examples is much weaker than is generally recognized. The Kane-Widerker objection holds that proponents of Frankfurt examples beg the question against incompatibilist accounts of free and responsible action by constructing examples that tacitly assume a compatibilist account of moral responsibility; that is, they assume that one can have non-derivative responsibility for choices that were not undetermined prior to their occurrence. The notion of an event, E, being ‘undetermined prior to (...) its occurrence’ is ambiguous. It can mean either (1) with respect to each time t prior to E’s occurrence, it is not the case that at t E’s occurrence is determined to take place, or it can mean (2) with respect to the whole collection of times prior to E’s occurrence, E’s occurrence is not determined to take place. Kane’s argument shows that (under certain constraints) if a choice is to be undetermined (in the second sense) prior to its occurrence, then a prior-sign Frankfurt example cannot be successful. But he fails to show that prior-sign Frankfurt examples cannot be constructed in which the choice is undetermined (in the first sense) prior to its occurrence, and he would need to do so in order to sustain his charge that those using Frankfurt examples beg the question against traditional incompatibilist accounts of responsibility. Widerker’s argument avoids the above problem, but at the cost of only applying to a rather restricted set of Frankfurt examples. (shrink)
According to the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP), people are morally responsible for what they do only if they could have done otherwise. Over the last few decades, this principle has dominated discussions of free will and moral responsibility. One important strand of this discussion concerns the Frankfurt-type cases or Frankfurt cases, originally developed by Frankfurt (J Philos 66:829–839, 1969), which are alleged counterexamples to PAP. One way in which proponents of PAP have responded to these purported (...) counterexamples is by arguing that they fall prey to a dilemma, both horns of which undermine their cogency. Recently, Fischer (Philos Rev 119: 315–336, 2010) has defended the Frankfurt cases against one horn of this dilemma. In this essay, I criticize Fischer’s defense of the Frankfurt cases and argue that he does not successfully show how the cases can avoid this horn of the dilemma. If I am right, then, despite Fischer’s claims to the contrary, the original dilemma plaguing the cases still stands. (shrink)
This paper presents the history of the Frankfurt School’s inclusion of normative concerns in social science research programs during the period 1930-1955. After examining the relevant methodology, I present a model of how such a program could look today. I argue that such an approach is both valuable to contemporary social science programs and overlooked by current philosophers and social scientists.
Harry Frankfurt has famously argued against the principle of alternate possibilities by presenting a case in which, apparently, a person is morally responsible for what he has done even though he could not have done otherwise. A number of commentators have proposed dispositionalist responses to Frankfurt, arguing that he has not produced a counterexample to PAP because, contrary to appearances, the ability to do otherwise is indeed present but is a disposition that has been ‘masked’ or ‘finked’ by (...) the presence of a counterfactual controller. This article argues that this response to Frankfurt does not undercut his attack on PAP, since there are Frankfurt-style counterexamples to the principle—‘brain-malfunction’ cases—that evade the dispositionalist analysis. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to look at Søren Kierkegaard's defence of an ethical way of life in the light of Harry Frankfurt's work. There are salient general similarities connecting Kierkegaard and Frankfurt: Both are sceptical towards the Kantian idea of founding morality in the laws of practical reason. They both deny that the concerns, which shape our lives, could simply be validated by subject-independent values. Furthermore, and most importantly, they both emphasize the importance of reflective endorsement (...) of one's way of life. This endorsement is understood by both not as an exercise of reason but as an exercise of our will without which boredom, anxiety and, ultimately, the dissolution of the self threatens. We can, the author of the paper argues, directly impose Frankfurt's hierarchical account of psychological attitudes on Kierkegaard in the sense that Frankfurt clearly helps us to elucidate Kierkegaard. This interpretation, however, also shows the limitations of any attempt, inspired by Kierkegaard, to justify moral rules without appealing to a religious foundation of morality. /// O propósito do presente artigo é, antes de mais, proceder, à luz da obra de Harry Frankfurt, a uma análise da defesa que Søren Kierkegaard faz do modo ético de conceber a existência humana. Com efeito, segundo o autor do artigo, são várias as similitudes existentes entre Kierkegaard e Frankfurt: ambos se mostram cépticos em relação ao projecto kantiano de fundar a moralidade nas leis da razão prática; ambos negam que as nossas preocupações existenciais possam simplesmente ser validadas por valores independentes do sujeito; acima de tudo, tanto Kierkegaard como Frankfurt enfatizam a importância de uma validação reflexiva do próprio modo de vida. Tanto um como o outro compreendem esta validação não como um exercício da razão, mas sobretudo como um exercício da vontade, sem o qual, na verdade, o sujeito se expõe não só ao tédio e à angústia, mas também, em última análise, ao perigo da auto-dissolução. Neste sentido, o artigo defende a possibilidade de se impor a Kierkegaard a narrativa de Frankfurt sobre as atitudes psicológicas, de modo que, conclui o autor, Frankfurt decididamente nos pode ajudar a elucidar Kierkegaard. Ao mesmo tempo, porém, esta interpretação mostra igualmente os limites de toda e qualquer tentativa, inspirada por Kierkegaard, de justificar as normas morais sem apelar aos fundamentos religiosos da moralidade. (shrink)
In rejecting the Principle of AlternatePossibilities (PAP), Harry Frankfurt makes useof a special sort of counterfactual of thefollowing form: ``he wouldn''t have doneotherwise even if he could have''''. Recently,other philosophers (e.g., Susan Hurley (1999,2003) and Michael Zimmerman (2002)) haveappealed to a special class of counterfactualsof this same general form in defending thecompatibility of determinism andresponsibility. In particular, they claim thatit can be true of agents that even if they aredetermined, and so cannot do otherwise, theywouldn''t have done otherwise even (...) if they couldhave. Using as a central case an argument ofSusan Hurley''s, I point out that thecounterfactuals in question are both``interlegal'''' and ``indeterministic'''', and I raisedoubts about whether this special class ofcounterfactuals have clear truth conditions. Finally I suggest that acknowledging thesepoints leads to an appreciation of the realstrength of Frankfurt-style examples. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to investigate the connection between the Frankfurt School and the events of 1968. Accordingly, the paper focuses only on those important members of the School whose philosophical, ideological or practical influence on the events is clearly detectable. This means dealing with four thinkers in three sections: the influence of Adorno and Horkheimer is treated in the same section, whereas the work of Marcuse and Habermas is examined in separate sections. The three sections represent (...) three different approaches. Adorno and Horkheimer are passive onlookers of the events their passivity being rooted in their skeptical philosophical thinking. The initially also passive and pessimist Marcuse slowly rises to the role of the ’prophet’ of the students. And the early Habermas’ critical analysis paves the way for his initially pessimist, but later more optimistic reformist attitude. The paper is structured accordingly: after introductory thoughts, the mentioned thinkers are treated in separate sections that contain historo-philosophical analysis of their relevant works. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction; 1. Coming of age in Wilhelmine Germany; 2. Student years in Frankfurt ; 3. A materialist interpretation of the history of modern philosophy; 4. The beginnings of a critical theory of contemporary society; 5. Horkheimer's integration of psychoanalysis into his theory of contemporary society; 6. Horkheimer's concept of materialism in the early 1930s; 7. The anthropology of the bourgeois epoch; 8. Reflections on dialectical logic in the mid-1930s; Excursus I. The theoretical foundations of Horkheimer's (...) split with Erich Fromm in the late 1930s: Fromm's critique of Freud's drive theory; Excursus II. Divergence, estrangement, and gradual rapprochement: the evolution of Horkheimer and Adorno's theoretical relationship in the 1930s; 9. State capitalism - the end of Horkheimer's early critical theory; Epilogue: toward a historicization of Dialectic of Enlightenment and a reconsideration of Horkheimer's early critical theory. (shrink)
This is a critical discussion of Vihvelin’s recent book Causes, Laws, and Free Will. I discuss Vihvelin’s ideas on Frankfurt-style cases and the actual-sequence view of freedom that is inspired by them.
An conversation with Harry Frankfurt about his views on love, free will, and responsibility, as well as his general approach to philosophy. (Note: a revised version appears in Alex Voorhoeve, Conversations on Ethics, OUP 2009).
Harry Frankfurt has a comprehensive and, at times, compelling, account of love, which are outlined in several of his works. However, he does not think that romantic love fits the ideal of love as it ‘includes a number of vividly distracting elements, which do not belong to the essential nature of love as a mode of disinterested concern’. In this paper, I argue that we can, nonetheless, learn some important things about romantic love from his account. Furthermore, I will (...) suggest, conversely, that there is distinct value in romantic love, which derives from the nature of the relationship on which it is based. Frankfurt tries to take agape and reformulate it so that it can also account for love of particular people. Whilst he succeeds, to some extent, in describing parental love, he fails to accurately describe romantic love and friendship, and, moreover, overlooks what is distinctly valuable about them. Although it was not his intention to describe romantic love, by failing to include features such as reciprocity in his account of love, Frankfurt leaves no room for a kind of love that is important and valuable to many people. (shrink)
This chapter introduces Axel Honneth's theory of recognition and discusses some criticisms of it, especially in relation to the third dimension of recognition and its relationship to the market economy.
Frankfurt-style examples aim to undermine the principle that moral responsibility requires the ability to do otherwise, which in turn requires the availability of alternate possibilities.1 They are thus considered a reason for refuting incompatibilism. One lesson drawn from Frankfurt-style examples is exemplified by the compatibilist account of Fischer and Ravizza.2 They accept the impact of Frankfurt-style cases and hold that the incompatibilist requirement of regulative control, which involves the agent’s ability to perform the action and her ability (...) to perform the contrary action, must be dropped. In its stead, they propose the weaker requirement of guidance control, which only demands the agent’s causal control over the action for which she is to be held responsible. (shrink)
As a result of a new understanding of the relation between theory and practice, the "New Frankfurt School," with Jürgen Habermas as its major representative, highly values the philosophical tradition of American pragmatism, in contrast to the first generation Critical Theorists represented by Max Horkheimer. In Habermas, the idea of"critique" is, both substantially and methodologically, closely connected with the idea of "praxis" in the following senses: communicative action, rational argumentation, public discussion and political culture. "Critique" is thus found to (...) be immanent in "praxis"; or, a la Horkheimer, pragmatism turns out to be a "critical philosophical analysis" without "falling back upon objective reason and mythology.". (shrink)