Moral Responsibility and Harry Frankfurt

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The incompatibilists argue that one is morally responsible for what she has done given that she could have done otherwise. Further, they think that if determinism is true then one could not have done otherwise, so if determinism is true, one is not morally responsible for things she has done. In debates surrounding the issue of free will, philosophers have focused on discussing whether determinism is true or false. Harry Frankfurt thinks even though the requirement of alternative possibilities in order to be held morally responsible for our actions seems intuitively plausible, it is a questionable premise in the argument provided by incompatibilists. Frankfurt calls the premise that “a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise” the principle of alternative possibilities or PAP (Frankfurt, 829). He argues that PAP is false and a person can be held morally responsible even if she could not have done otherwise. Frankfurt presents counterexamples to PAP to prove its falsity. He tells us to assume that there is a universal controller that wants to ensure certain outcomes. The controller makes it impossible for an agent to act otherwise, which causes her to act exactly as the controller wishes. Frankfurt argues that in such a case it is true that agent is not responsible for her action and that she could not have done otherwise, but he thinks that the agent’s lack of responsibility does not follow from her inability to do otherwise.
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