Strawson and Prasad on Determinism and Resentment

Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 18 (3):198-216 (2001)
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P. F. Strawson's influential article "Freedom and Resentment" has been much commented on, and one of the most trenchant commentaries is Rajendra Prasad's, "Reactive Attitudes, Rationality, and Determinism." In his article, Prasad contests the significance of the reactive attitude over a precise theory of determinism, concluding that Strawson's argument is ultimately unconvincing. In this article, I evaluate Prasad's challenges to Strawson by summarizing and categorizing all of the relevant arguments in both Strawson's and Prasad's pieces. Strawson offers four types of arguments to demonstrate that determinism and free agency cannot be incompatible, showing that the reactive attitude is natural and desirable and the objective attitude is not natural, not desirable, not sustainable, and not compatible with the reactive attitude. Prasad targets Strawson's incompatibilist arguments, showing that determinism and free agency are incompatible. Of Prasad's seven types of arguments, four target Strawson's four above. Three of these succeed and one fails. The remaining three target Strawson's support of the reactive attitude, and of these, one succeeds, and the others fail. Although Prasad's arguments miss the mark at times, he does succeed in putting forth a legitimate challenge to Strawson's notion that determinism is no inhibitor of the reactive attitude.

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Brian Bruya
Eastern Michigan University


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