The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 20, Issue 1–3, pp 69–82 | Cite as

Moral Responsibility: Radical Reversals and Original Designs

  • Alfred R. Mele


This article identifies and assesses a way of thinking that might help to explain why some compatibilists are attracted to what is variously called an internalist, structuralist, or anti-historicist view of moral responsibility—a view about the bearing of agents’ histories on their moral responsibility. Scenarios of two different kinds are considered. Several scenarios feature heavy-duty manipulation that radically changes an agent’s mature moral personality from admirable to despicable or vice versa. These “radical reversal” scenarios are contrasted with a scenario featuring “original design”: a supernatural designer determines exactly how an agent’s life will go before the agent comes into existence. It is explained why scenarios of these two different kinds generate very different challenges to compatibilism. Partly in light of that explanation, it is argued that the way of thinking at issue is misguided.


Anti-historicism Compatibilism Harry G. Frankfurt Internalism Manipulation Moral responsibility Original design scenarios Radical reversal scenarios 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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