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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 61–77 | Cite as

The W-defense

  • Justin A. CapesEmail author
Article

Abstract

There has been a great deal of critical discussion of Harry Frankfurt’s argument against the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), almost all of which has focused on whether the Frankfurt-style examples, which are designed to be counterexamples to PAP, can be given a coherent formulation. Recently, however, David Widerker has argued that even if Frankfurt-style examples can be given a coherent formulation, there is reason to believe that an agent in those examples could never be morally blameworthy for what she has done. Therefore, such examples do not undermine a version of PAP restricted to blameworthiness. Widerker refers to his argument for this claim as the W-defense. I examine the W-defense in some detail, along with three recent replies to it by defenders of Frankfurt’s argument. I contend that each of these replies is problematic and, indeed, that two of them play directly into the hands of those seeking to defend PAP. I then develop my own reply to the W-defense by calling into question an assumption which is at the heart of that argument regarding the nature of moral blame.

Keywords

Frankfurt Alternative possibilities W-defense Moral responsibility Blame David Widerker 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am extremely grateful to both John Martin Fischer and Al Mele for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this essay. I owe a special debt of thanks to Michael McKenna, who read and commented on several drafts of the essay and who through his published work and many personal conversations has helped me think more clearly about the nature of human freedom and moral responsibility.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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