, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 209–222 | Cite as

The Threat of Effective Intentions to Moral Responsibility in the Zygote Argument

  • Robyn Repko WallerEmail author


In Free Will and Luck, Mele presents a case of an agent Ernie, whose zygote was intentionally designed so that Ernie A-s in 30 years, bringing about a certain event E. Mele uses this case of original design to outline the zygote argument against compatibilism. In this paper I criticize the zygote argument. Unlike other compatibilists who have responded to the zygote argument, I contend that it is open to the compatibilist to accept premise one, that Ernie does not act freely and is not morally responsible for anything he does. I argue that compatibilists should deny premise two. Diana’s effective intention to create Ernie’s zygote such that Ernie A-s in 30 years and her intervention to bring about his A-ing mark a significant difference between Ernie and normal agents in a deterministic universe with regard to how their zygotes were created that affects whether those agents act freely and are morally responsible for so acting.


Moral responsibility Free will Compatibilism Alfred Mele Intention Zygote argument 



I would like to thank Alfred Mele, Stephen Kearns, John Fischer, Justin Coates, and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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