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5.4c.2. Alternative Possibilities (Alternative Possibilities on PhilPapers)

Alvarez, Maria (2009). Actions, thought-experiments and the 'principle of alternate possibilities'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):61 – 81.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In 1969 Harry Frankfurt published his hugely influential paper 'Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility' in which he claimed to present a counterexample to the so-called 'Principle of Alternate Possibilities' ('a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise'). The success of Frankfurt-style cases as counterexamples to the Principle has been much debated since. I present an objection to these cases that, in questioning their conceptual cogency, undercuts many of those debates. Such cases all require a counterfactual mechanism that could cause an agent to perform an action that he cannot avoid performing. I argue that, given our concept of what it is for someone to act, this requirement is inconsistent. Frankfurt-style alleged counterexamples are cases where an agent is morally responsible for an action he performs even though, the claim goes, he could not have avoided performing that action. However, it has recently been argued, e.g. by John Fischer, that a counterexample to the Principle could be a 'Fischer-style case', i.e. a case where the agent can either perform the action or do nothing else. I argue that, although Fischer-style cases do not share the conceptual flaw common to all Frankfurt-style cases, they also fail as counterexamples to the Principle. The paper finishes with a brief discussion of the significance of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities
Aune, Bruce (1963). Abilities, modalities, and free will. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23 (March):397-413.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Aune, Bruce (1970). Free will, 'can', and ethics: A reply to Lehrer. Analysis 30 (January):77-83.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Black, Sam & Tweedale, Jon (2002). Responsibility and alternative possibilities: The use and abuse of examples. Journal of Ethics 6 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: The philosophical debate over the compatibility between causaldeterminism and moral responsibility relies heavily on ourreactions to examples. Although we believe that there is noalternative to this methodology in this area of philosophy, someexamples that feature prominently in the literature are positivelymisleading. In this vein, we criticize the use that incompatibilistsmake of the phenomenon of ``brainwashing,'''' as well as the Frankfurt-styleexamples favored by compatibilists. We provide an instance of thekind of thought experiment that is needed to genuinely test thehypothesis that moral accountability and causal determinism arecompatible
Blumenfeld, David C. (1971). The principle of alternate possibilities. Journal of Philosophy 68 (March):339-44.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Brown, Vivienne (2006). Choice, moral responsibility and alternative possibilities. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (3):265-288.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Is choice necessary for moral responsibility? And does choice imply alternative possibilities of some significant sort? This paper will relate these questions to the argument initiated by Harry Frankfurt that alternative possibilities are not required for moral responsibility, and to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza's extension of that argument in terms of guidance control in a causally determined world. I argue that attending to Frankfurt's core conceptual distinction between the circumstances that make an action unavoidable and those that bring it about that the action is performed – a distinction emphasised in his recent restatement – provides a new route into an analysis of Frankfurt's argument by showing how it depends on a person's ‘decision to act’ involving the exercise of choice. The implicit reliance of Frankfurt's argument on this notion of choice, however, undermines his claim that the example of the counterfactual intervener strengthens the compatibilist case by providing a counter-example to the principle of alternative possibilities. I also argue that Frankfurt's reliance on the exercise of choice for moral responsibility is also evident in the Fischer/Ravizza argument, and that a close analysis of both arguments shows that such exercise of choice is not available if causal determinism is true
Clarke, Randolph (2009). Dispositions, Abilities to Act, and Free Will: The New Dispositionalism. Mind 118 (470):323-351.   (Google)
Abstract: This paper examines recent attempts to revive a classic compatibilist position on free will, according to which having an ability to perform a certain action is having a certain disposition. Since having unmanifested dispositions is compatible with determinism, having unexercised abilities to act, it is held, is likewise compatible. Here it is argued that although there is a kind of capacity to act possession of which is a matter of having a disposition, the new dispositionalism leaves unresolved the main points of dispute concerning free will.
Copp, David (1997). Defending the principle of alternate possibilities: Blameworthiness and moral responsibility. Noûs 31 (4):441-456.   (Google | More links)
Della Rocca, Michael (1998). Frankfurt, Fischer and flickers. Noûs 32 (1):99-105.   (Google)
Dennett, Daniel C. (1984). I could not have done otherwise--so what? Journal of Philosophy 81 (10):553-565.   (Google)
Abstract: Peter van Inwagen notes: "... almost all philosophers agree that a necessary condition for holding an agent responsible for an act is believing that the agent could have refrained from performing that act." Perhaps van Inwagen is right; perhaps most philosophers agree on this. If so, this shared assumption, which I will call CDO (for "could have done otherwise"), is a good candidate for denial, especially since there turns out to be so little to be said in support of it, once it is called in question. I will argue that, just like those people who are famous only for being famous, this assumption owes its traditional high regard to nothing more than its traditional high regard. It is almost never questioned. And the tradition itself, I will claim, is initially motivated by little more than inattentive extrapolation from familiar cases. To engage the issue, I assert that it simply does not matter at all to moral responsibility whether the agent in question could have done otherwise in the circumstances.
Di Nucci, Ezio (forthcoming). Frankfurt counterexample defended. Analysis.   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper I argue that even if we accept that Jones does not kill Smith in the counterfactual scenario, Frankfurt’s counterexample is still safe because showing that Jones does not kill Smith in the counterfactual scenario does not show that Jones avoids killing Smith, because whether Black intervenes is not up to Jones. I argue that Frankfurt’s counterexample does not depend on the agent acting (let alone doing the same thing) in the counterfactual scenario.
Di Nucci, Ezio (2010). Refuting a Frankfurtian objection to Frankfurt-type counterexamples. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2).   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper I refute an apparently obvious objection to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities according to which if in the counterfactual scenario the agent does not act, then the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. And because what happens in the counterfactual scenario cannot count as the relevant agent’s actions given the sort of external control that agent is under, then we can ground responsibility on that agent having been able to avoid acting. I illustrate how this objection to Frankfurt’s famous counterexample is motivated by Frankfurt’s own ‘guidance’ view of agency. My argument consists in showing that even if we concede that the agent does not act in the counterfactual scenario, that does not show that the agent could have avoided acting in the actual scenario. This depends on the crucial distinction between ‘not φ-ing’ and ‘avoiding φ-ing’
Ekstrom, Laura W. (2002). Libertarianism and Frankfurt-style cases. In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 13 | Google)
Eshleman, Andrew (1997). Alternative possibilities and the free will defence. Religious Studies 33 (3):267-286.   (Google)
Abstract: The free will defence attempts to show that belief in an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God may be rational, despite the existence of evil. At the heart of the free will defence is the claim that it may be impossible, even for an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God, to bring about certain goods without the accompanying inevitability, or at least overwhelming probability, of evil. The good in question is the existence of free agents, in particular, agents who are sometimes free with respect to morally significant actions and who are thereby responsible, at least in part, for those actions and the personal character which is a function of and exhibited in those actions. The free will defender contends that if an agent is to be truly responsible for her actions, then she must be free to bring about both good and evil, and God cannot be blamed if such agents choose to bring about the latter rather than the former. A number of years ago, Antony Flew objected that God was not forced to choose between creating free agents who might act wrongly and not creating a world with free agents. Instead, God could have created free agents who were wholly good, i.e. who always acted rightly." Freedom and responsibility, Flew argued, are compatible with one’s actions being causally determined by God, thus it was within God’s power to create agents who were both free and responsible yet causally determined to always act rightly. In response, proponents of the free will defence criticized Flew’s conditional analysis of freedom – if S had chosen to do otherwise, she would have been able to do otherwise – maintaining instead that an agent’s freedom consists in her ability at the time in question to both perform the action and refrain from performing the action. Acting freely, on this libertarian view, is incompatible with one’s actions being determined by God, for an agent..
Fara, Michael (2008). Masked abilities and compatibilism. Mind 117 (468).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: This paper offers an analysis of agential abilities in terms of dispositions. The analysis is shown to provide the resources to defend a version of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities against Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Although this principle is often taken to be congenial to incompatibilism about free action and determinism, the paper concludes by using the dispositional analysis of abilities to argue for compatibilism, and to show why the “master argument” for incompatibilism is unsound
Fischer, John Martin & Hoffman, Paul (1994). Alternative possibilities: A reply to Lamb. Journal of Philosophy 91 (6):321-326.   (Google | More links)
Fischer, John Martin (2002). Frankfurt-style compatibilism. In Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.), Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press, Bradford Books.   (Cited by 12 | Google)
Abstract: In this essay I shall begin by sketching a "Frankfurt-type example." I shall then lay out a disturbing challenge to the claim I have made above that these examples help us to make significant progress in the debates about the relationship between moral responsibility and causal determinism. I then will provide a reply to this challenge, and the reply will point toward a more refined formulation of the important contribution I believe Frankfurt has made to defending a certain sort of compatibilism.
Fischer, John Martin (2003). ‘Ought-implies-can’, causal determinism and moral responsibility. Analysis 63 (279):244–250.   (Google | More links)
Fischer, John Martin (1982). Responsibility and control. Journal of Philsophy 79 (January):24-40.   (Cited by 193 | Google | More links)
Fischer, John Martin (2007). The importance of Frankfurt-style argument. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228):464–471.   (Google | More links)
Fischer, John Martin (2009). Ultimacy and alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies 144 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: I explore a key feature of Robert Kane’s libertarianism (about which I have been puzzled for some time). Kane claims that we should separate issues of alternative possibilities from issues of ultimacy, but he further argues that they are connected in a certain way. I call into question this connection, and I continue to argue for a strict separation of considerations pertaining to alternative possibilities and “actual-sequence” considerations
Frankfurt, Harry G. (1969). Alternate possibilities and moral responsibility. Journal of Philosophy 66 (3):829-39.   (Cited by 173 | Google | More links)
Franklin, Christopher Evan (2011). Neo-Frankfurtians and buffer cases: The new challenge to the principle of alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies 152 (2):189-207.   (Google)
Abstract: The debate over whether Frankfurt-style cases are counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) has taken an interesting turn in recent years. Frankfurt originally envisaged his attack as an attempting to show that PAP is false—that the ability to do otherwise is not necessary for moral responsibility. To many this attack has failed. But Frankfurtians have not conceded defeat. Neo-Frankfurtians, as I will call them, argue that the upshot of Frankfurt-style cases is not that PAP is false, but that it is explanatorily irrelevant. Derk Pereboom and David Hunt’s buffer cases are tailor made to establish this conclusion. In this paper I come to the aid of PAP, showing that buffer cases provide no reason for doubting either its truth or relevance with respect to explaining an agent’s moral responsibility
Funkhouser, Eric (2009). Frankfurt cases and overdetermination. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (3):pp. 341-369.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In traditional Frankfurt cases some conditions that make an outcome unavoidable fail to bring about that outcome. These are cases of causal preemption. I defend this interpretation of traditional Frankfurt cases, and its application to free will, against a dilemma raised by various libertarians. But I go on to argue that Frankfurt cases involving gen- uine (symmetric) causal overdetermination are even more effective at achieving the compatibilist’s purposes. Such cases avoid the “flicker of freedom” debate and better display the central disagreement with regard to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities
Ginet, Carl A. (1997). Freedom, responsibility, and agency. Journal of Ethics 1 (1):85-98.   (Cited by 15 | Google | More links)
Abstract: This paper first distinguishes three alternative views that adherents to both incompatibilism and PAP may take as to what constitutes an agent''s determining or controlling her action (if it''s not the action''s being deterministically caused by antecedent events): the indeterministic-causation view, the agent-causation view, and "simple indeterminism." The bulk of the paper focusses on the dispute between simple indeterminism - the view that the occurrence of a simple mental event is determined by its subject if it possesses the "actish" phenomenal quality and is undetermined by antecedent events - and Timothy O''Connor''s agent-causation view. It defends simple indeterminism against O''Connor''s objections to it and offers objections to O''Connor''s view
Ginet, Carl A. (1996). In defense of the principle of alternative possibilities: Why I don't find Frankfurt's argument convincing. Philosophical Perspectives 10:403-17.   (Cited by 24 | Google | More links)
Ginet, Carl & Palmer, David (2010). On Mele and Robb's indeterministic Frankfurt-style case. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (2):440-446.   (Google)
Glannon, Walter (1993). On the revised principle of alternate possibilities. Southern Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):49-60.   (Google)
Glatz, Richard M. (2008). The (near) necessity of alternate possibilities for moral responsibility. Philosophical Studies 139 (2).   (Google)
Abstract: Harry Frankfurt has famously criticized the principle of alternate possibilities—the principle that an agent is morally responsible for performing some action only if able to have done otherwise than to perform it—on the grounds that it is possible for an agent to be morally responsible for performing an action that is inevitable for the agent when the reasons for which the agent lacks alternate possibilities are not the reasons for which the agent has acted. I argue that an incompatibilist about determinism and moral responsibility can safely ignore so-called “Frakfurt-style cases” and continue to argue for incompatibilism on the grounds that determinism rules out the ability to do otherwise. My argument relies on a simple—indeed, simplistic—weakening of the principle of alternate possibilities that is explicitly designed to be immune to Frankfurt-style criticism. This alternative to the principle of alternate possibilities is so simplistic that it will no doubt strike many readers as philosophically fallow. I argue that it is not. I argue that the addition of one highly plausible premise allows for the modified principle to be employed in an argument for incompatibilism that begins with the observation that determinism rules out the ability to do otherwise. On the merits of this argument I conclude that deterministic moral responsibility is impossible and that Frankfurt’s criticism of the principle of alternate possibilities—even if successful to that end—may be safely ignored
Goddu, G. C. (2006). More on blameworthiness and alternative possibilities. Journal of Moral Philosophy 3 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: The derivation of the generally held Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), roughly ‘you are morally responsible only if you could do otherwise’, from an even more generally held moral principle, K (for Kant), that roughly speaking ‘ought implies can’, has recently been the focus of significant debate. In this paper I shall argue that by focusing on PAP interpreted in terms of commissions alone an alternative derivation of PAP interpreted in terms of omissions is being overlooked. The advantage of the new derivation is that it avoids many of the criticisms directed at the original derivation. Key Words: alternative possibilities • blameworthiness • moral responsibility • omissions
Goetz, Stewart (2002). Alternative Frankfurt-style counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 83 (2):131–147.   (Google | More links)
Goetz, Stewart C. (2005). Frankfurt-style counterexamples and begging the question. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):83-105.   (Cited by 6 | Google | More links)
Goetz, Stewart (2001). Stump on libertarianism and the principle of alternative possibilities. Faith and Philosophy 18 (1):93-101.   (Google)
Abstract: Eleonore Stump has argued that a proponent of libertarian freedom must maintain that an agent is sometimes morally responsible for his mental action and that such moral responsibility is incompatible with that mental action’s being causally determined. Nevertheless, she maintains that this moral responsibility does not require that the agent be free to perform another mental action (act otherwise). In this paper, I argue that Stump fails to make a good case against the view that moral responsibility requires the freedom to act otherwise
Gosselin, Phillip D. (1987). The principle of alternative possibilities. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (March):91-104.   (Google)
Haji, Ishtiyaque (2000). Alternate possibilities and responsibility. Journal of Social Philosophy 31 (3):259–267.   (Google | More links)
Haji, Ishtiyaque (2003). Alternative possibilities, luck, and moral responsibility. Journal of Ethics 7 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: I first question whether genuinealternatives are necessary for moralresponsibility by assessing the assumption thataccessibility to such alternatives is vital tohaving the kind of control required forresponsibility. I next suggest that theavailability of genuine alternatives courtsproblems of responsibility-subverting luck foran important class of libertarian theories. Isummarize one such problem and respond torecent replies it has elicited. I then proposethat if this ``luck objection'''' against theidentified class of libertarian theories ispersuasive, a similar objection appears toafflict compatibilist theories as well.Finally, I show that reflections on luck maywell take some bite out of variousFrankfurt-type examples. These are examplesdesigned to establish that an agent can bemorally responsible for an action despiteacting with libertarian free will in theabsence of genuine or pertinent alternatives
Haji, By Ishtiyaque (2008). Dispositional compatibilism and Frankfurt-type examples. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2):226–241.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: This article critically examines Kadri Vihvelin's proposal that to have free will is to have the ability to make choices on the basis of reasons, and to have this ability is to have a bundle of dispositions that can be exercised in more than one way. It is argued that partisans of Frankfurt examples can still make a powerful case for the view that being able to do otherwise, even on Vihvelin's compatibilist explication of ‘could have done otherwise,’ is not required for moral responsibility
Haji, Ishtiyaque & McKenna, Michael S. (2004). Dialectical delicacies in the debate about freedom and alternative possibilities. Journal of Philosophy 101 (6):299-314.   (Cited by 7 | Google)
Haji, Ishtiyaque & McKenna, Michael S. (2006). Defending Frankfurt's argument in deterministic contexts: A reply to Palmer. Journal of Philosophy 103 (7):363-372.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Haji, Ishtiyaque (1999). Indeterminism and Frankfurt-type examples. Philosophical Explorations 2 (1):42-58.   (Cited by 7 | Google | More links)
Abstract: I assess Robert Kane's view that global Frankfurt-type cases don't show that freedom to do otherwise is never required for moral responsibility. I first adumbrate Kane's indeterminist account of free will.This will help us grasp Kane's notion of ultimate responsibility, and his claim that in a global Frankfurt-type case, the counterfactual intervener could not control all of the relevant agent's actions in the Frankfurt manner, and some of those actions would be such that the agent could have done otherwise. Appealing to considerations of responsibility and luck, I then show that the global cases survive Kane's objections
Harrison, Gerald K. (2006). Frankfurt-style cases and improbable alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies 130 (2).   (Google)
Abstract:   It has been argued that a successful counterexample to the principle of alternative possibilities must rule out any possibility of the agent making an alternative decision right up to the moment of choice. This paper challenges that assumption. Distinguishing between an ability and an opportunity, this paper presents a Frankfurt-style case in which there is an alternative possibility, but one it is highly improbable that the agent will access. In such a case the agent has only the opportunity, not the ability to do otherwise
Harrison, Bernard (2003). Review: The human world in the physical universe: Consciousness, free will, and evolution. Mind 112 (448).   (Google)
Hay, William H. (1957). Free-will and possibilities. Philosophy of Science 24 (July):207-214.   (Google | More links)
Heinaman, Robert (1986). Incompatibilism without the principle of alternative possibilities. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64 (September):266-76.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Hoffman, Paul, Locke on the Locked room.   (Google)
Abstract: In his book Liberty Worth the Nd?72€,1 Gideon Yaffe has provided an interpretation of Lock:-z's account of moral responsibility according to which it bears important affinities with the views of contemporary theorists Harry lirankfurt and Susan Wolf. On Yaffe’s reading, Locke, like Frankfurt and Wolf separates moral responsibility from the ability to have acted otherwise; like Wolf, Locke associates freedom with the dependency ofone’s choices on the good. I am going to argue that Yaffe’s interpretation of the key passages underlying his interpretation is suspect. We get a very different perspective in trying to interpret the points Locke is trying to make if instead of looking forward to Frankfurt and Wolf we look backward to Aquinas. The first part of this paper will be concerned with an investi~ gation of Locl
Honderich, Ted (ms). Harry Frankfurt: Alternate possibilities and moral responsibility.   (Google)
Abstract: This enviable piece of philosophy has been as successful as any other in the past three decades of the determinism and freedom debate. It has given rise to a continuing controversy. At its centre is what seems to be a refutation of what seems to be the cast-iron principle that in order for someone to be morally responsible for an action, it must be possible that he or she could have done otherwise. The principle has been assumed by philosophers persuaded that determinism is incompatible with freedom and also by philosophers persuaded that determinism is compatible with freedom. However, Frankfurt's article has mainly been read as lending support to the Compatibilist idea
Huemer, Michael (ms). A proof of free will.   (Google)
Abstract: The _minimal free will thesis_ (MFT) holds that at least some of the time, someone has more than one course of action that he can perform. (1) This is the least that must be true in order for it to be said that there is free will. It may be disputed whether the truth of MFT is _sufficient_ for us to 'have free will,' (2) but there is no doubt that the main philosophical challenge to the belief in free will has come from the thesis of universal determinism, so understood as to exclude MFT. A proof of MFT is therefore of considerable philosophical interest, whether or not it constitutes a full proof of free will. In any case, it is the minimal free will thesis of which I have a proof to offer
Hunt, David P. (2007). Black the libertarian. Acta Analytica 22 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: The most serious challenge to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) comes in the form of a dilemma: either the counterexample presupposes determinism, in which case it begs the question; or it does not presuppose determinism, in which case it fails to deliver on its promise to eliminate all alternatives that might plausibly be thought to satisfy PAP. I respond to this challenge with a counterexample in which considering an alternative course of action is a necessary condition for deciding to act otherwise, and the agent does not in fact consider the alternative. I call this a “buffer case,” because the morally relevant alternative is “buffered” by the requirement that the agent first consider the alternative. Suppose further that the agent’s considering an alternative action—entering the buffer zone—is what would trigger the counterfactual intervener. Then it would appear that PAP-relevant alternatives are out of reach. I defend this counterexample to PAP against three objections: that considering an alternative is itself a morally relevant alternative; that buffer cases can be shown to contain other alternatives that arguably satisfy PAP; and that even if the agent’s present access to PAP-relevant alternatives were eliminated, PAP could still be satisfied in virtue of earlier alternatives. I conclude that alternative possibilities are a normal symptom, but not an essential constituent, of moral agency
Janew, Claus (2009). How Consciousness Creates Reality. CreateSpace.   (Google)
Abstract: The present text is a very abridged version of a book I wrote out of the desire to examine the structure of our reality from a standpoint unbiased by established teachings, be they academic- scientific, popular- esoteric, or religious in nature. We will begin with seemingly simple interactions in our daily lives, examine how they originate on a deeper level, come to understand the essentials of consciousness, and finally recognize that we create our reality in its entirety. In the course of this quest, we will uncover little-heeded paths to accessing our subconscious, other individuals, and that which can be understood by the term "God". And the solution to the classical problem of free will constitutes the gist of the concepts thus revealed.
Kane, Robert H. (2000). The dual regress of free will and the role of alternative possibilities. Philosopical Perspectives 14:57-80.   (Cited by 7 | Google | More links)
Lehrer, Keith (1964). 'Could' and determinism. Analysis 24 (March):159-60.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Lehrer, Keith (1976). 'Could' in theory and practice: A possible worlds analysis. In M. Brand & Douglas N. Walton (eds.), Action Theory. Reidel.   (Google)
Levy, Neil (2008). Counterfactual intervention and agents' capacities. Journal of Philosophy 105 (5).   (Google | More links)
Levi, Don (2008). Did God deprive pharaoh of free will? Philosophy and Literature 32 (1):pp. 58-73.   (Google)
Levy, Neil, Frankfurt enablers and Frankfurt disablers.   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper, I introduce the notion of a Frankfurt Enabler, a counterfactual intervener poised, should a signal for intervention be received, to enable an agent to perform a mental or physical action. Frankfurt enablers demonstrate, I claim, that merely counterfactual conditions are sometimes relevant to assessing what capacities agents possess. Since this is the case, we are not entitled to conclude that agents in standard Frankfurt-style cases retain their responsibility-ensuring capacities. There is no principled rationale for bracketing counterfactual interveners in standard Frankfurt-style cases, but admitting their relevance when they are Frankfurt enablers. I argue that the intuition that we ought to bracket counterfactual interveners is, at bottom, an expression of a mistaken internalist view about the mental
Levy, Neil (ms). Why Frankfurt-style cases don't help (much).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Frankfurt-style cases are widely taken to show that agents do not need alternative possibilities to be morally responsible for their actions. Many philosophers take these cases to constitute a powerful argument for compatibilism: if we do not need alternative possibilities for moral responsibility, it is hard to see what the attraction of indeterminism might be. I defend the claim that even though Frankfurt-style cases establish that agents can be responsible for their actions despite lacking alternatives, agents can only be responsible if they possess certain powers, and possession of these powers is - arguably - incompatible with determinism. Because this is the case, Frankfurt-style cases fail to advance the debate between compatibilism and incompatibilism
Levy, Neil (2004). Why Frankfurt examples don't Beg the question: A reply to Woodward. Journal of Social Philosophy 35 (2):211–215.   (Google | More links)
Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper (2005). Frankfurt, responsibility, and reflexivity. Philosophia 32 (1-4):369-382.   (Google | More links)
Locke, Don (1980). Digging deeper into determinism. Mind 89 (January):87-89.   (Google | More links)
McKenna, Michael (2008). Frankfurt's argument against alternative possibilities: Looking beyond the examples. Noûs 42 (4):770-793.   (Google)
Abstract: Harry Frankfurt dramatically shaped the debates over freedom and responsibility by arguing that the sort of freedom germane to responsibility does not involve the freedom to do otherwise. His argument turns upon an example meant to disprove the Principle of Alternative Possibilities:   A person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise. Debate over Frankfurt's argument has turned almost exclusively on the success of the example meant to defeat it. But there is more to Frankfurt's argument than the example in question, and this is not widely recognized. Inattention to these other aspects of Frankfurt's argument has distorted the force of it. In this paper I shall explore avenues for both refuting and advancing Frankfurt's argument that look beyond the examples. These further considerations invite us to think in broader terms about moral responsibility's nature and the sort of freedom required for it
McKenna, Michael S. & Widerker, David (eds.) (2002). Freedom, Responsibility, and Action: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities. Ashgate Press.   (Google)
McKenna, Michael S. (2005). Where Frankfurt and Strawson meet. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):163-180.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Mele, Alfred R. & Robb, David (2003). Bbs, Magnets and Seesaws: The Metaphysics of Frankfurt-style Cases. In David Widerker & Michael McKenna (eds.), Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities. Ashgate.   (Google)
Mele, Alfred R. (2000). Responsibility and freedom: The challenge of Frankfurt-style-cases. In M. Betzler & B. Guckes (eds.), Autonomes Handeln: Beitrage Zur Philosophie von Harry G. Frankfurt. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.   (Google)
Mele, Alfred R. & Robb, David (1998). Rescuing Frankfurt-style cases. Philosophical Review 107 (1):97-112.   (Cited by 37 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Almost thirty years ago, in an attempt to undermine what he termed "the principle of alternate possibilities" (the thesis that people are morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise), Harry Frankfurt offered an ingenious thought-experiment that has played a major role in subsequent work on moral responsibility and free will. Several philosophers, including David Widerker and Robert Kane, argued recently that this thought-experiment and others like it are fundamentally flawed. This paper develops a new Frankfurt-style example that is immune to their objections. [Reprinted in Laura Waddell Ekstrom, ed., Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom (Westview Press, 2001), pp. 241-54; and in John Martin Fischer, ed., Free Will, Vol. III (Routledge, 2005), pp. 330-42.]
Mele, Alfred R. (1996). Soft libertarianism and Frankfurt-style scenarios. Philosophical Topics 24:123-41.   (Cited by 16 | Google)
Meynell, Hugo (2008). Moral responsibility and alternative possibilities: Essays on the importance of alternative possibilities. Edited by David Widerker and Michael McKenna. Heythrop Journal 49 (3):518–520.   (Google | More links)
Moya Espí, Carlos J. (2003). Blockage cases: No case against Pap. Critica 35 (104):109-120.   (Google)
Moya, Carlos J. (2007). Moral responsibility without alternative possibilities? Journal of Philosophy 104 (9):475-486.   (Google | More links)
Nahmias, Eddy A. (2006). Close calls and the confident agent: Free will, deliberation, and alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies 131 (3):627-667.   (Google)
Abstract: Two intuitions lie at the heart of our conception of free will. One intuition locates free will in our ability to deliberate effectively and control our actions accordingly: the ‘Deliberation and Control’ (DC) condition. The other intuition is that free will requires the existence of alternative possibilities for choice: the AP condition. These intuitions seem to conflict when, for instance, we deliberate well to decide what to do, and we do not want it to be possible to act in some other way. I suggest that intuitions about the AP condition arise when we face ‘close calls,’ situations in which, after deliberating, we still do not know what we really want to do. Indeed, several incompatibilists suggest such close calls are necessary for free will. I challenge this suggestion by describing a ‘confident agent’ who, after deliberating, always feels confident about what to do (and can then control her actions accordingly). Because she maximally satisfies the DC condition, she does not face close calls, and the intuition that the AP condition is essential for free will does not seem to apply to her. I conclude that intuitions about the importance of the AP condition rest on our experiences of close calls and arise precisely to the extent that our deliberations fail to arrive at a clear decision. I then raise and respond to several objections to this thought experiment and its relevance to the free will debate
Naylor, Margery Bedford (1984). Frankfurt on the principle of alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies 46 (September):249-58.   (Google)
Nelkin, Dana K. (2004). Irrelevant alternatives and Frankfurt counterfactuals. Philosophical Studies 121 (1):1-25.   (Google | More links)
Abstract:   In rejecting the Principle of AlternatePossibilities (PAP), Harry Frankfurt makes useof a special sort of counterfactual of thefollowing form: ``he wouldn''t have doneotherwise even if he could have''''. Recently,other philosophers (e.g., Susan Hurley (1999,2003) and Michael Zimmerman (2002)) haveappealed to a special class of counterfactualsof this same general form in defending thecompatibility of determinism andresponsibility. In particular, they claim thatit can be true of agents that even if they aredetermined, and so cannot do otherwise, theywouldn''t have done otherwise even if they couldhave. Using as a central case an argument ofSusan Hurley''s, I point out that thecounterfactuals in question are both``interlegal'''' and ``indeterministic'''', and I raisedoubts about whether this special class ofcounterfactuals have clear truth conditions. Finally I suggest that acknowledging thesepoints leads to an appreciation of the realstrength of Frankfurt-style examples
O'Connor, Timothy (1993). Alternative possibilities and responsibility. Southern Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):345-372.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Palmer, David (2006). Moral responsibility, alternative possibilities and determinism: Begging the question in the Frankfurt cases. Southwest Philosophy Review 22 (1):79-86.   (Google)
Palmer, David (2005). New distinctions, same troubles: A reply to Haji and McKenna. Journal of Philosophy 102 (9):474-482.   (Google)
Palmer, David (forthcoming). Pereboom on the Frankfurt cases. Philosophical Studies.   (Google)
Abstract: 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. In what follows, I want to defend this principle against an apparent counterexample offered recently by Derk Pereboom (Living without free will, 2001 ; Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 29:228–247, 2005 ). Pereboom’s case, a variant of what are known as ‘Frankfurt cases,’ is important for it attempts to overcome a dilemma posed for earlier alleged counterexamples to PAP. However, I will argue that by paying closer attention to the details of Pereboom’s example, we see that his example fails to show a way between the horns of the dilemma posed for the earlier Frankfurt examples
Pereboom, Derk (2000). Alternative possibilities and causal histories. Philosopical Perspectives 14:119-138.   (Cited by 12 | Google | More links)
Perry, John (2004). Compatibilist options. In David Shier, Michael O'Rourke & Joseph Keim Campbell (eds.), Freedom and Determinism. MIT Press/Bradford Book.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Compatibilism is the thesis that an act may be both free and determined by previous events and the laws of nature. I assume that in normal cases a condition of a person's performing an act freely is that the person is able to refrain from performing the act. Thus, I accept that if determinism entails that agents do not have this ability, we must give up compatibilism. In this paper I try to contribute to the rethinking of compatibilism by distinguishing between strong and weak accounts of laws and strong and weak accounts of ability. I argue that compatibilism is a tenable position when combined with either a weak account of laws, or a weak account of ability, or both. I shall concentrate on influential arguments for incompatibilism due to Peter van Inwagen, often called collectively the "consequence argument".
Pereboom, Derk (2003). Source incompatibilism and alternative possibilities. In Michael S. McKenna & David Widerker (eds.), Freedom, Responsibility, and Agency: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities. Ashgate.   (Cited by 8 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The claim that moral responsibility for an action requires that the agent could have done otherwise is surely attractive. Moreover, it seems reasonable to contend that a requirement of this sort is not merely a necessary condition of little consequence, but that it plays a decisive role in explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action. For if an agent is to be blameworthy for an action, it seems crucial that she could have done something to avoid this blameworthiness. If she is to be praiseworthy for an action, it seems important that at least she could have done something less admirable. Libertarians, in particular, have often grounded their incompatibilism precisely in such intuitions. By contrast, I shall argue that the availability of alternative possibilities is in a significant sense irrelevant to explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action. At the same time I do not want to disavow incompatibilism, but rather to defend a version in which the pivotal explanatory role is assigned to features of the causal history of the action, and not to the availability of alternative possibilities.(2)
Raab, Francis V. (1955). Free will and the ambiguity of "could". Philosophical Review 64 (1):60-77.   (Google | More links)
Ragland, C. P. (2006). Alternative possibilities in Descartes's fourth meditation. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (3):379 – 400.   (Google | More links)
Ragland, C. P. (2006). Descartes on the principle of alternative possibilities. Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: : The principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) says that doing something freely implies being able to do otherwise. I show that Descartes consistently believed not only in PAP, but also in clear and distinct determinism (CDD), which claims that we sometimes cannot but judge true what we clearly perceive. Because Descartes thinks judgment is always a free act, PAP and CDD seem contradictory, but Descartes consistently resolved this apparent contradiction by distinguishing between two senses of 'could have done otherwise.' In one sense alternative possibilities are necessary for freedom and in another they are not. I discuss three possible interpretations of the two senses
Rankin, Kenneth W. (1980). Ifs as labels on cans. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 10 (June):257-279.   (Google)
Roush, S. (1998). Alternate possibilities and their entertainment. Philosophy 73 (4):559-571.   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper it is argued that Frankfurt's and Strawson's defenses of compatibilism are insufficient due to neglected features of the role of alternate possibilities in assigning moral responsibility. An attempt is made to locate more adequately the genuine source of tension between free will and determinism, in a crowding phenomenon in the view of an action which our concept of responsibility has not grown up coping with. Finally, an argument is made that due to the nature of belief we can believe the thesis of determinism only if it is false, lending support to incompatibilism
Sanford, David H. (1976). What could have happened. Noûs 10 (September):313-326.   (Google | More links)
Shabo, Seth (2007). Flickers of freedom and modes of action: A reply to Timpe. Philosophia 35 (1).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In recent years, many incompatibilists have come to reject the traditional association of moral responsibility with alternative possibilities. Kevin Timpe argues that one such incompatibilist, Eleonore Stump, ultimately fails in her bid to sever this link. While she may have succeeded in dissociating responsibility from the freedom to perform a different action, he argues, she ends up reinforcing a related link, between responsibility and the freedom to act under a different mode. In this paper, I argue that Timpe’s response to Stump exploits concessions she need not have made. The upshot is that, contrary to what Timpe maintains, there is no reason to doubt that Stump's brand of incompatibilism is a genuine alternative to the traditional variety
Slezak, Peter (online). Frankfurt examples: The moral of the stories.   (Google)
Speak, Daniel James (1999). Fischer and avoidability: A reply to Widerker and Katzoff. Faith and Philosophy 16 (2):239-247.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Speak, Daniel James (2005). Papistry: Another defense. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):262-268.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Speak, Daniel James (2007). The impertinence of Frankfurt-style argument. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (226):76-95.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Strasser, Mark (1988). Frankfurt, Aristotle, and Pap. Southern Journal of Philosophy 26:235-46.   (Google)
Stump, Eleonore (1999). Alternative possibilities and moral responsibility: The flicker of freedom. Journal of Ethics 3 (4):299-324.   (Google)
Abstract: Some defenders of the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) have responded to the challenge of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP by arguing that there remains a flicker of freedom -- that is, an alternative possibility for action -- left to the agent in FSCs. I argue that the flicker of freedom strategy is unsuccessful. The strategy requires the supposition that doing an act-on-one''s-own is itself an action of sorts. I argue that either this supposition is confused and leads to counter-intuitive results; or, if the supposition is acceptable, then it is possible to use it to construct a FSC in which there is no flicker of freedom at all. Either way, the flicker of freedom strategy is ineffective against FSCs. Since the flicker of freedom strategy is arguably the best defense of PAP, I conclude that FSCs are successful in showing that PAP is false. An agent can act with moral responsibility without having alternative possibilities available to her
Stump, Eleonore (1990). Intellect, will, and the principle of alternative possibilities. In M. Beaty (ed.), Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy. University of Notre Dame Press.   (Google)
Stump, Eleonore (1996). Libertarian freedom and the principle of alternative possibilities. In Faith, Freedom, and Rationality: Philosophy of Religion Today. Lanham: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield.   (Cited by 26 | Google)
Stump, Eleonore (1988). Sanctification, hardening of the heart, and Frankfurt's concept of free will. Journal of Philosophy 85 (8):395-420.   (Google | More links)
Timpe, Kevin (2006). A critique of Frankfurt-libertarianism. Philosophia 34 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract:   Most libertarians think that some version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) is true. A number of libertarians, which I call ‘Frankfurt-libertarians,’ think that they need not embrace any version of PAP. In this paper, I examine the writings of one such Frankfurt-libertarian, Eleonore Stump, for her evaluation of the impact of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP. I show how, contrary to her own claims, Stump does need a PAP-like principle for her account of free action. I briefly argue that this discussion also goes some distance to showing that any Frankfurt-libertarian is in a similar position regarding the need for some PAP-like principle. If I am correct, then Frankfurt-libertarians must either renounce their incompatibilism or concede that FSCs fail to show all PAP-like principles to be false
Timpe, Kevin (2009). Causal history matters, but not for individuation. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (1):pp. 77-91.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In ‘Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility,’ Harry Frankfurt introduces a scenario aimed at showing that the having of alternative possibilities is not required for moral responsibility. According to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), an agent is morally responsible for her action only if she could have done otherwise; Frankfurt thinks his scenario shows that PAP is, in fact, false. Frankfurt thinks that the denial of PAP gives credence to compatibilism, the thesis that an agent could both be causally determined in all her actions and yet be morally responsible.1 Since its introduction, Frankfurt’s original ex-
Timpe, Kevin (2006). The dialectic role of the flickers of freedom. Philosophical Studies 131 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract:   One well-known incompatibilist response to Frankfurt-style counterexamples is the ‘flicker-of-freedom strategy’. The flicker strategy claims that even in a Frankfurt-style counterexample, there are still morally relevant alternative possibilities. In the present paper, I differentiate between two distinct understandings of the flicker strategy, as the failure to differentiate these two versions has led some philosophers to argue at cross-purposes. I also explore the respective dialectic roles that the two versions of the flicker strategy play in the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists. Building on this discussion, I then suggest a reason why the compatibilism/incompatibilism debate has reached a stalemate
van Inwagen, Peter (1999). Moral responsibility, determinism, and the ability to do otherwise. Journal of Ethics 3 (4).   (Google)
Abstract: In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both parties had attributed to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this
Wee, Cecilia (2006). Descartes and Leibniz on human free-will and the ability to do otherwise. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (3).   (Google)
White, V. Alan (1998). Frankfurt, failure, and finding fault. Sorites 9 (9):47-52.   (Google)
Widerker, David (2000). Frankfurt's attack on the principle of alternative possibilities: A further look. Philosopical Perspectives 14:181-202.   (Cited by 10 | Google | More links)
Widerker, David (1995). Libertarianism and Frankfurt's attack on the principle of alternative possibilities. Philosophical Review 104 (2):247-61.   (Cited by 47 | Google | More links)
Widerker, David (2006). Libertarianism and the philosophical significance of Frankfurt scenarios. Journal of Philosophy 103 (4):163-187.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Widerker, David (2002). Responsibility and Frankfurt-type examples. In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Yaffe, Gideon (1999). 'Ought' implies 'can' and the principle of alternate possibilities. Analysis 59 (3):218-222.   (Cited by 8 | Google | More links)
Young, Garry (2007). Igniting the flicker of freedom: Revisiting the Frankfurt scenario. Philosophia 35 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: This paper aims to challenge the view that the sign present in many Frankfurt-style scenarios is insufficiently robust to constitute evidence for the possibility of an alternate decision, and therefore inadequate as a means of determining moral responsibility. I have amended Frankfurt’s original scenario, so as to allow Jones, as well as Black, the opportunity to monitor his (Jones’s) own inclination towards a particular decision (the sign). Different outcome possibilities are presented, to the effect that Jones’s awareness of his own inclinations leads to the conclusion that the sign must be either (a) a prior determinate of the decision about to be made, (b) prior and indeterminate (therefore allowing for a contra-inclination decision to be made), or (c) constitutive of a decision that Jones has made but is not yet aware of. In effect, this means that, prior to the intervention of Black, Jones must have decided to do otherwise or could have so decided. Either way, although Frankfurt’s conclusion, that Jones could not have done other than he did, is upheld, the idea that he could not have decided otherwise must be rejected, and with it the view that the sign is nothing more than a flicker of freedom insufficient for assigning morally responsibility