Deliberation and the Possibility of Skepticism

In Maximilian Kiener (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Responsibility. Routledge. pp. 239-249 (forthcoming)
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No one is responsible for their conduct because free will is an illusion, say some skeptics. Even when it seems that we have several options, we only have one. Hence, says the free will skeptic, we should reform our practices which involve responsibility attributions, such as punishment and blame. How seriously should we take this doctrine? Is it one that we could live by? One thorn in the side of the skeptic concerns deliberation. When we deliberate about what to do—what film to go see, whom to befriend, which doctrine to follow—we must presume that our options are open to us. But then, every time that skeptics deliberate, they presume something which is incompatible with their doctrine, i.e. that they have several options. In a word, skeptics cannot deliberate qua skeptics. Some philosophers have responded that deliberators don’t have to presume that their options are open; they only have to presume that their choice will be efficacious. I argue that this proposal uses resources which, if they are available and successful, can be employed to refute skepticism. The upshot is that free will skeptics are pushing for a doctrine that is either false or in tension with deliberation.

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Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette
Université de Neuchâtel


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