A Challenge for Soft Line Replies to Manipulation Cases

Philosophia 38 (3):555-568 (2010)
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Cases involving certain kinds of manipulation seem to challenge compatibilism about responsibility-grounding free will. To deal with such cases many compatibilists give what has become known as a ‘soft line’ reply. In this paper I present a challenge to the soft line reply. I argue that any relevant case involving manipulation—and to which a compatibilist might wish to give a soft line reply—can be transformed into one supporting a degree of moral responsibility through the addition of libertarian elements (such as alternative possibilities of a kind unavailable under determinism and executive control of the sort commonly associated with agent-causation). From a compatibilist’s perspective the subtraction of libertarian elements should make no difference to any assessment of the agent’s responsibility. The compatibilist should therefore judge the agent morally responsible after the removal of the libertarian elements. Yet removal of the libertarian elements returns the case to its original form and thus what started out as a soft line has now collapsed into a hard line reply. Various ways of resisting my argument are considered, but each is shown to carry important burdens



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Gerald K. Harrison
Massey University

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References found in this work

Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility.John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza - 1998 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mark Ravizza.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - New York, US: Oxford University Press USA.
Living Without Free Will.Derk Pereboom - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Free Will and Luck.Alfred R. Mele - 2006 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Autonomous Agents: From Self Control to Autonomy.Alfred R. Mele - 1995 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.

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