Philosophical Studies

, Volume 164, Issue 3, pp 599-622

First online:

Frankfurt cases and the (in)significance of timing: a defense of the buffering strategy

  • David HuntAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, Whittier College
  • , Seth ShaboAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Delaware Email author 

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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.


Frankfurt cases Buffered alternatives Franklin Palmer Hunt Pereboom