Philosophical Studies

, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 249–266 | Cite as

The explanatory power of local miracle compatibilism



Local miracle compatibilists claim that we are sometimes able to do otherwise than we actually do, even if causal determinism obtains. When we can do otherwise, it will often be true that if we were to do otherwise, then an actual law of nature would not have been a law of nature. Nevertheless, it is a compatibilist principle that we cannot do anything that would be or cause an event that violates the laws of nature. Carl Ginet challenges this nomological principle, arguing that it is not always capable of explaining our inability to do otherwise. In response to this challenge, I point out that this principle is part of a defense against the charge that local miracle compatibilists are committed to outlandish claims. Thus it is not surprising that the principle, by itself, will often fail to explain our inability to do otherwise. I then suggest that in many situations in which we are unable to do otherwise, this can be explained by the compatibilist’s analysis of ability, or his criteria for the truth of ability claims. Thus, the failure of his nomological principle to explain the falsity of certain ability claims is no strike against local miracle compatibilism.


Free will Determinism Compatibilism Local miracle compatibilism Ability 



I would like to thank Tomas Bogardus, Joseph Keim Campbell, Randolph Clarke, Christopher Franklin, Carl Ginet, Peter A. Graham, Robert Kane, Michael Nelson, Neal Tognazzini, and the members of the UCR Agency Writing Workshop for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank John Martin Fischer, who has provided me with helpful comments on numerous drafts and invaluable guidance throughout the writing process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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