Blame and Avoidability: A Reply to Otsuka

The Journal of Ethics 14 (1):43 - 51 (2010)


In a fascinating recent article, Michael Otsuka seeks to bypass the debates about the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by presenting and defending a different, but related, principle, which he calls the “Principle of Avoidable Blame.” According to this principle, one is blameworthy for performing an act only if one could instead have behaved in an entirely blameless manner. Otsuka claims that although Frankfurt-cases do undermine the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, they do not undermine the Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this brief paper, we offer a critical discussion of the core of Otsuka’s argument, especially the claim that his favored principle cannot be refuted by Frankfurt-cases. We do not believe that Otsuka has offered good reason to suppose that the Principle of Avoidable Blame—and the related incompatibilism—fares any better than the original Principle of Alternative Possibilities.

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Author Profiles

Neal Tognazzini
Western Washington University
John Fischer
University of California, Riverside