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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2009

4 - Problems for compatibilism



In Chapter 1, I argued that whether an agent could have done otherwise is explanatorily irrelevant to whether he is morally responsible for his action. There I also contended that this argument does not undermine incompatibilism, for there is an incompatibilist intuition that remains untouched by it. The intuition is that if all of our behavior was “in the cards” before we were born, in the sense that things happened before we came to exist that by way of a deterministic causal process, inevitably result in our behavior, then we cannot legitimately be blamed for our wrongdoing. I also remarked that in the dialectic of the debate, one should not expect compatibilists to be moved much by this incompatibilist intuition alone to abandon their position. Rather, the best type of challenge to compatibilism is that this sort of causal determination is in principle as much of a threat to moral responsibility as is covert manipulation. In this chapter, I develop this argument.

This anti-compatibilist strategy plays a pivotal role in my argument for the causal history principle:

(5) An action is free in the sense required for moral responsibility only if the decision to perform it is not an alien-deterministic event, nor a truly random event, nor a partially random event.

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Living without Free Will
  • Online ISBN: 9780511498824
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