Making a Difference in a Deterministic World
Some philosophers have claimed that causally determined agents are not morally responsible because they cannot make a difference in the world. A recent response by philosophers who defend the compatibility of determinism and responsibility has been to concede that causally determined agents are incapable of making a difference, but to argue that responsibility is not grounded in difference making. These compatibilists have rested such a claim on Frankfurt cases—cases where agents are intuitively responsible for acts that they couldn’t have failed to perform. This essay argues, first, that the intuitive plausibility of the idea that responsibility is grounded in difference making is not completely put to rest by Frankfurt cases, even if those cases successfully show that responsibility is not grounded in difference making in the sense of access to alternative possibilities of action. It then goes on to develop a different compatibilist strategy, one according to which responsibility is grounded in difference making, but the type of difference making it is grounded in does not require access to alternative possibilities. Indeed, it is a form of difference making that is clearly compatible with determinism.