Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 5, pp 1255–1276 | Cite as

Defeating Manipulation Arguments: Interventionist causation and compatibilist sourcehood

  • Oisín DeeryEmail author
  • Eddy Nahmias


We use recent interventionist theories of causation to develop a compatibilist account of causal sourcehood, which provides a response to Manipulation Arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. Our account explains the difference between manipulation and determinism, against the claim of Manipulation Arguments that there is no relevant difference. Interventionism allows us to see that causal determinism does not mean that variables outside of the agent causally explain her actions better than variables within the agent, whereas the causal source of a manipulated agent’s actions instead lies outside of the agent in the intentions of the manipulator. As a result, determined agents can have free will and be morally responsible in a way that manipulated agents cannot, contrary to what Manipulation Arguments conclude. In this way, our account demonstrates not only how Manipulation Arguments fail but also how compatibilism can be strengthened by means of a plausible account of causal sourcehood.


Free will Moral responsibility Determinism Manipulation Argument Zygote Argument Interventionism Causation 


  1. Aristotle. 350 BC/2011. Nicomachean ethics (R. C. Bartlett & S. D. Collins, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ayer, A. J. (1954). Freedom and necessity. Philosophical essays (pp. 271–284). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Barnes, E. C. (2013). Freedom, creativity, and manipulation. Noûs, 49(3), 560–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, J. (2010). Control variables and mental causation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 110, 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Capes, J. (2013). Mitigating soft compatibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 87(3), 640–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cartwright, N. (1979). Causal laws and effective strategies. Noûs, 13, 419–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coates, J., & Swenson, P. (2013). Reasons-responsiveness and degrees of responsibility. Philosophical Studies, 165, 629–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deery, O. (2013). Absences and late preemption. Theoria, 79(4), 309–325.Google Scholar
  9. Deery, O. (2015). Why people believe in indeterminist free will. Philosophical Studies, 172(8), 2033–2054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Demetriou, K. (2010). The soft-line solution to Pereboom’s four-case argument. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 88(4), 595–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dennett, D. (1984). Elbow room: The varieties of free will worth wanting. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fischer, J. M. (2000). Responsibility, history and manipulation. The Journal of Ethics, 4(4), 385–391.Google Scholar
  13. Fischer, J. M., & Ravizza, M. (1998). Responsibility and control: A theory of moral responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frankfurt, H. (1969). Alternate possibilities and moral responsibility. Journal of Philosophy, 66(23), 829–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frankfurt, H. (1971). Freedom of the will and the concept of a person. Journal of Philosophy, 68(1), 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haji, I., & Cuypers, S. (2006). Hard- and soft-line responses to Pereboom’s four-case manipulation argument. Acta Analytica, 21(4), 19–35.Google Scholar
  17. Hitchcock, C. (2001). The intransitivity of causation revealed in equations and graphs. Journal of Philosophy, 98(6), 273–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ismael, J. (2013). Causation, free will, and naturalism. In H. Kincaid, J. Ladyman, & D. Ross (Eds.), Scientific metaphysics (pp. 208–235). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kane, R. (1996). The significance of free will. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Khoury, A. (2014). Manipulation and mitigation. Philosophical Studies, 168(1), 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kuorikoski, J. (2014). How to be a humean interventionist. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 89(2), 333–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lagnado, D., Gerstenberg, T., & Zultan, R. (2013). Causal responsibility and counterfactuals. Cognitive Science, 37, 1036–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. List, C., & Menzies, P. (2009). Nonreductive physicalism and the limits of the exclusion principle. Journal of Philosophy, 106, 475–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lombrozo, T. (2010). Causal–explanatory pluralism: How intentions, functions, and mechanisms influence causal ascriptions. Cognitive Psychology, 61(4), 303–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Matthews, K. E., & Canon, L. K. (1975). Environmental noise level as a determinant of helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(4), 571–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McCain, K. (2012). The interventionist account of causation and the basing relation. Philosophical Studies, 159, 357–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McKenna, M. (2008). A hard-line reply to Pereboom’s four-case manipulation argument. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 77(1), 142–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McKenna, M. (2014a). Compatibilist ultimacy: Resisting the threat of Kane’s U-condition. In D. Palmer (Ed.), Libertarian free will: Contemporary debates (pp. 71–87). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. McKenna, M. (2014b). Resisting the manipulation argument: A hard-liner takes it on the chin. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 89(2), 464–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mele, A. (1995). Autonomous agents: From self-control to autonomy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Mele, A. (2006). Free will and luck. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mele, A. (2013). Manipulation, moral responsibility, and bullet biting. Journal of Ethics, 17(3), 167–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Menzies, P. (2004). Causal models, token causation, and processes. Philosophy of Science, 71(5), 820–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mickelson, K. (2015). The zygote argument is invalid: Now what? Philosophical Studies, 172(11), 2911–2929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murray, D., & Lombrozo, T. (2016). Effects of manipulation on attributions of causation, free will, and moral responsibility. Cognitive Science. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12338.Google Scholar
  37. Nelkin, D. (2016). Difficulty and degrees of moral praiseworthiness and blameworthiness. Noûs, 50(2), 356–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Connor, T. (1995). Agent causation. In T. O’Connor (Ed.), Agents, causes, and events: Essays on indeterminism and free will (pp. 173–200). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Pearl, J. (2000). Causality: Models, reasoning, and inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Pereboom, D. (2001). Living without free will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pereboom, D. (2008). A hard-line reply to the multiple-case manipulation argument. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 77(1), 160–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pereboom, D. (2014). Free will, agency, and meaning in life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Phillips, J., & Shaw, A. (2014). Manipulating morality: Third-party intentions alter moral judgments by changing causal reasoning. Cognitive Science, 39(6), 1320–1347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ragland, C. P. (2011). Softening Fischer’s hard compatibilism. The Modern Schoolman, 88(1/2), 51–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roskies, A. (2012). Don’t panic: Self-authorship without obscure metaphysics. Philosophical Perspectives, 26(1), 323–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sartorio, C. (2013). Making a difference in a deterministic world. Philosophical Review, 122(2), 189–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schlosser, M. (2015). Manipulation and the zygote argument: Another reply. Journal of Ethics, 19(1), 73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sloman, S. A. (2005). Causal models: How people think about the world and its alternatives. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sripada, C. (2012). What makes a manipulated agent unfree? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(3), 563–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tierney, H. (2013). A maneuver around the modified manipulation argument. Philosophical Studies, 165(3), 753–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Todd, P. (2011). A new approach to manipulation arguments. Philosophical Studies, 152(1), 127–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Van Inwagen, P. (1983). An essay on free will. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Vihvelin, K. (2013). Causes, laws, and free will: Why determinism doesn’t matter. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Waller, R. R. (2014). The threat of effective intentions to moral responsibility in the zygote argument. Philosophia, 42, 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Watson, G. (2000). Soft libertarianism and hard compatibilism. In M. Betzler & B. Guckes (Eds.), Autonomes Handeln: Beitrage zur Philosophie von Harry G. Frankfurt (pp. 59–70). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.Google Scholar
  56. Weslake, B. (2006). Review of James Woodward, Making things happen. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 84(1), 136–140.Google Scholar
  57. Wolf, S. (1987). Sanity and the metaphysics of responsibility. In F. Schoeman (Ed.), Responsibility, character and emotions: New essays on moral psychology (pp. 46–62). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Woodward, J. (2015). Interventionism and causal exclusion. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 91(2), 303–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Woodward, J. (Forthcoming). Interventionism and the missing metaphysics: A dialogue. In M. Slater and Z. Yudell (Eds.), Metaphysics and the philosophy of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Yang, E. (2013). Eliminativism, interventionism and the overdetermination argument. Philosophical Studies, 164, 321–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ArizonaTucson, AZUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy & Neuroscience InstituteGeorgia State UniversityAtlanta, GAUSA

Personalised recommendations