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Responses to John Martin Fischer and Dana Nelkin

Responses to John Martin Fischer and Dana Nelkin

Derk Pereboom

Cornell University
Email: dp346@cornell.edu

ABSTRACT

I first want to thank John Fischer for his generous appraisal of the book, and for his astute and challenging comments on my treatment of the manipulation argument in Chapter 4. Fischer’s core strategy for resisting this argument is (at least initially) a soft-line reply. Soft-liners claim that in some manipulation cases the agent is not morally responsible, and in others he is. A corollary of the soft-line reply is that there is a plausible compatibilist condition on moral responsibility that has not been met in some of the cases. One prominent response of this sort is that a key condition on basic desert moral responsibility (the notion of moral responsibility I will assume in this discussion of manipulation arguments) is the absence of intentional manipulation or causal determination (Lycan 2007, Feltz 2013, Murray and Lombrozo forthcoming). This is not the line Fischer takes. In the response he proposes, intentional causal determination is compatible with moral responsibility in Case 2, that is, in what he calls an initial design case, in which the intentional causation, as in Leibniz’s theological determinism, is confined to the beginning of the agent’s life. But in Case 1, where the intentional manipulation is direct and immediate, the agent is not morally responsible. Fischer’s thought is that Plum’s non-responsibility in Case 1 can be accounted for by the conditions on mechanism-ownership, a feature of the compatibilist account of moral responsibility he and Ravizza (1998) developed, which, he correctly points out, I neglect in favor of the reasons-responsiveness component.

 

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Science, Religion and Culture

June

Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82

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