Philosophical Studies

, Volume 170, Issue 2, pp 317–334 | Cite as

Compatibilism and personal identity

  • Benjamin Matheson


Compatibilists disagree over whether there are historical conditions on moral responsibility. Historicists claim there are, whilst structuralists deny this. Historicists motivate their position by claiming to avoid the counter-intuitive implications of structuralism. I do two things in this paper. First, I argue that historicism has just as counter-intuitive implications as structuralism when faced with thought experiments inspired by those found in the personal identity literature. Hence, historicism is not automatically preferable to structuralism. Second, I argue that structuralism is much more plausible once we accept that personal identity is irrelevant to moral responsibility. This paves the way for a new structuralist account that makes clear what it takes to be the diachronic ownership condition (which is normally taken to be personal identity) and the locus of moral responsibility (which is normally taken to be ‘whole’ person), and helps to alleviate the intuitive unease many have with respect to structuralism.


Manipulation Moral responsibility Historicism Structuralism Personal identity Compatibilism 



Author would like to thank the following people for comments on early and predecessor versions of this paper: Al Mele, Ann Whittle, Tim Bayne, Michael McKenna, Joel Smith, John Fischer, an anonymous reviewer for this journal, and the graduate community at the University of Manchester. Special thanks to Natalie Ashton. And extra special thanks to my supervisor, Helen Beebee, for countless comments on every version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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