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Freedom, Responsibility, and Frankfurt-style Cases

Macdonald, BJ; (2014) Freedom, Responsibility, and Frankfurt-style Cases. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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In this thesis I consider an argument against the claim that an agent is responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise. Frankfurt-style cases are proposed as scenarios in which an agent is responsible for what they have done, despite having been unable to do otherwise. A successful Frankfurt-style case would render the question of the compatibility of the ability to do otherwise and determinism or indeterminism irrelevant to the question of the compatibility of responsibility and determinism or indeterminism. My aim is to assess whether this style of argument succeeds. I begin by considering a strategy employed by some „leeway compatibilists‟ who have argued, via a modified conditional analysis of the ability to do otherwise, that an agent in a Frankfurt-style case could, in fact, have done otherwise in some relevant sense. I argue that these views fail to establish that the agent could have done otherwise in a sense relevant to accounting for that agent‟s responsibility. I suggest that, for all that these views show, Frankfurt‟s challenge may stand against leeway compatibilism. I go on to argue that, insofar as Frankfurt-style cases are proposed to count against „leeway incompatibilism‟, determinism must not be assumed, and the counterfactual intervener or intervening mechanism must be equipped to pre-empt the agent‟s acts of will. I suggest that no dialectically effective Frankfurt-style case can be constructed which would show that the agent could not have done otherwise, in some relevant sense, if it is granted that the agent has the power to determine, without prior determination, their own acts of will. Leeway incompatibilism must be rejected only if there is independent reason to suppose that this ability is unnecessary for responsibility. I conclude that Frankfurt-style cases, in isolation, do not count decisively against leeway incompatibilism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Freedom, Responsibility, and Frankfurt-style Cases
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1435550
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