Modified Frankfurt-type counterexamples and flickers of freedom
A great deal of attention has been paid recently to the claim that traditional Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), which depend for their success on the presence of a perfectly reliable indicator (or prior sign) of what an agent will freely do if left to act on his own, are guilty of begging the question against incompatibilists, since such indicators seem to presuppose a deterministic relation between an agent’s free action and its causal antecedents. Objections of this sort have given rise to considerable efforts to construct alternative Frankfurt-type counterexamples that do not rely on prior signs of this kind and so do not presuppose determinism in a way that incompatibilists should find objectionable. One consequence of this shift in the way Frankfurt-type counterexamples are formulated is that it provides an opportunity for the forceful resurgence of certain versions of the so-called flicker defense of PAP. In this paper I develop two versions of the flicker defense, indicate their advantages over other versions of this strategy, and defend them against objections. Insofar as either of these is successful, it will show not only that PAP has yet to be falsified by any of the modified Frankfurt-type counterexamples currently on offer but that cases of this sort are in principle incapable of falsifying PAP.
KeywordsMoral responsibility Alternative possibilities PAP Frankfurt Frankfurt-type counterexamples Flickers of freedom Robust
For helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, I wish to thank Al Mele, Michael McKenna, Randy Clarke, Walt Schaller, Sara Chant, Travis Rodgers, and an anonymous referee for this journal. A much earlier version of the first half of this paper was presented at the 2007 Pacific-Mountain Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers. I am grateful to the audience there, and especially to Dan Speak, for their feedback.
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