The Timing Objection to the Frankfurt Cases
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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. Pereboom (Living without free will, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29:228–247, 2005) has developed an influential version of a Frankfurt case, known as “Tax Evasion,” which he believes is a counterexample to PAP. Ginet (Journal of Ethics 6:305–309, 2002) raises a key objection against Pereboom’s case, known as “the timing objection.” The main claim of the timing objection is that we need to pay close attention to the precise time at which people act in order to determine what they can, and cannot, be morally responsible for. Recently, Pereboom (The philosophy of free will, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012) has defended his position against this objection by developing a new Frankfurt case called “Tax Cut.” In this paper, I assess this new development. I argue that Tax Cut is just as vulnerable to the timing objection as Pereboom’s original case, Tax Evasion. Thus, Pereboom’s response to the timing objection fails, leaving PAP intact from the threat of both of his Frankfurt cases. Along the way, I further motivate and develop the timing objection, and explore the distinction between derivative and non-derivative responsibility.
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