Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

, Volume 164, Issue 3, pp 599–622 | Cite as

Frankfurt cases and the (in)significance of timing: a defense of the buffering strategy

  • David Hunt
  • Seth Shabo
Article

Abstract

Frankfurt cases are purported counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, which implies that we are not morally responsible for unavoidable actions. A major permutation of the counterexample strategy features buffered alternatives; this permutation is designed to overcome an influential defense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. Here we defend the buffering strategy against two recent objections, both of which stress the timing of an agent’s decision. We argue that attributions of moral responsibility aren’t time-sensitive in the way the objectors suppose. We then turn to the crucial question of when an action is relevantly avoidable—when, in the parlance of the literature, an alternative possibility is robust. We call attention to two plausible tests for robustness that merit further consideration, showing that the agents in buffered Frankfurt cases don’t pass these tests, despite being morally responsible for their actions.

Keywords

Frankfurt cases Buffered alternatives Franklin Palmer Hunt Pereboom 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Derk Pereboom, Chris Franklin, and an anonymous referee for Philosophical Studies for helpful comments that led to several improvements in and additions to the manuscript. David Hunt's work on this paper was made possible though the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

References

  1. Blumenfeld, D. (1971). The principle of alternative possibilities. Journal of Philosophy, 68, 339–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Fischer, J. M. (1994). The metaphysics of free will: An essay on control. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Frankfurt, H. (1969). Alternate possibilities and moral responsibility. Journal of Philosophy, 66, 829–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Franklin, C. E. (2011). Neo-Frankfurtians and buffer cases: The new challenge to the principle of alternative possibilities. Philosophical Studies, 152, 189–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ginet, C. (1996). In defense of the principle of alternative possibilities: Why I don’t find Frankfurt’s arguments convincing. Philosophical Perspectives, 10, 403–417.Google Scholar
  6. Ginet, C. (2002). Review of Pereboom’s Living without free will. Journal of Ethics, 6, 305–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hunt, D. (2000). Moral responsibility and unavoidable action. Philosophical Studies, 84, 195–227. Reprinted in (2005) J. M. Fischer & G. Watson (Eds.), Free will: Critical concepts in philosophy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Hunt, D. (2005). Moral responsibility and buffered alternatives. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 29, 126–145. Reprinted in (2005) J. M. Fischer & G. Watson (Eds.), Free will: Critical concepts in philosophy (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  9. Kane, R. (1985). Free will and values. Albany: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  10. Kane, R. (1996). The significance of free will. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kane, R. (2000). The dual regress of free will and the role of alternate possibilities. Philosophical Perspectives, 14, 57–79.Google Scholar
  12. Palmer, D. (2011). Pereboom on the Frankfurt cases. Philosophical Studies, 153, 261–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pereboom, D. (2000). Alternate possibilities and causal histories. Philosophical Perspectives, 14, 119–138.Google Scholar
  14. Pereboom, D. (2001). Living without free will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pereboom, D. (2005). Defending hard incompatibilism. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 29, 228–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pereboom, D. (forthcoming, 2012). Frankfurt examples, derivative responsibility, and the timing objection. Philosophical Issues.Google Scholar
  17. Shabo, S. (2007). Flickers of freedom and modes of action: A reply to Timpe. Philosophia, 35, 63–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Shabo, S. (2010). Uncompromising source incompatibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 80, 349–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Stump, E. (1996). Libertarian freedom and the principle of alternate possibilities. In J. Jordan & D. Howard-Snyder (Eds.), Faith, freedom, and rationality (pp. 73–88). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  20. Stump, E. (1999). Dust, determinism, and Frankfurt: A reply to Goetz. Faith and Philosophy, 16, 413–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. van Inwagen, P. (1983). An essay on free will. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  22. Widerker, D. (1995). Libertarianism and Frankfurt’s attack on the principle of alternative possibilities. Philosophical Review, 104, 247–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Widerker, D., & McKenna, M. (2003). Moral responsibility and alternative possibilities: Essays on the importance of alternative possibilities. Burlington, Vt: Ashgate.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentWhittier CollegeWhittierUSA
  2. 2.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations