Frankfurt's argument against alternative possibilities: Looking beyond the examples

Harry Frankfurt dramatically shaped the debates over freedom and responsibility by arguing that the sort of freedom germane to responsibility does not involve the freedom to do otherwise. His argument turns upon an example meant to disprove the Principle of Alternative Possibilities:   A person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise. Debate over Frankfurt's argument has turned almost exclusively on the success of the example meant to defeat it. But there is more to Frankfurt's argument than the example in question, and this is not widely recognized. Inattention to these other aspects of Frankfurt's argument has distorted the force of it. In this paper I shall explore avenues for both refuting and advancing Frankfurt's argument that look beyond the examples. These further considerations invite us to think in broader terms about moral responsibility's nature and the sort of freedom required for it.

Published in: Noûs
2008 42 (4) Pages 770-793