Incompatibilism and the transfer of non-responsibility
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Arguments for the incompatibility of determinism and moral responsibility sometimes make use of various transfer of non-responsibility principles. These principles purport to specify conditions in which lack of moral responsibility is transmitted to the consequences of things for which people are not morally responsible. In this paper, after developing what I take to be the most serious objections to extant principles of this sort, I identify and defend a new transfer of non-responsibility principle that is immune to these and other objections. This new principle says, roughly, that if you are not morally responsible for any of the circumstances that led to a particular outcome, and if you are not morally responsible for those circumstances leading to that outcome, then you are not morally responsible for the outcome either. After defending this principle against a number of objections, I use it to argue for the conclusion that no one is even partly morally responsible for anything, if determinism is true.
KeywordsMoral responsibility Determinism Incompatibilism Transfer of non-responsibility The direct argument
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at SUNY-Fredonia and at the the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. My thanks to audiences on those occasions for helpful feedback. I'm also grateful to EJ Coffman, Michael McKenna, and Randy Clarke for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of the paper, and to Stephen Kearns for helping me think through some of the details of the argument.
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