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 ‘Frankfurt 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.
KeywordsEthics Metaphysics Moral responsibility Free will Frankfurt Pereboom
I should like to thank E. J. Coffman, Robert Kane, Michael McKenna and, in particular, Carl Ginet for help with this paper. I also thank an anonymous reviewer for the journal whose questions helped me clarify my criticisms. An earlier draft was read at the 2008 American Philosophical Association Pacific Division meeting in Pasadena, CA. I am grateful to the audience on that occasion and my commentator, Daniel Speak.
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