The Soft-Line Solution to Pereboom's Four-Case Argument

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (4):595-617 (2010)
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Abstract
Derk Pereboom's Four-Case Argument is among the most famous and resilient manipulation arguments against compatibilism. I contend that its resilience is not a function of the argument's soundness but, rather, the ill-gotten gain from an ambiguity in the description of the causal relations found in the argument's foundational case. I expose this crucial ambiguity and suggest that a dilemma faces anyone hoping to resolve it. After a thorough search for an interpretation which avoids both horns of this dilemma, I conclude that none is available. Rather, every metaphysically coherent interpretation invites either a hard- or soft-line reply to Pereboom's argument. I then consider a recharacterization of the dilemma which seems to clear the way for the defence of a revised Four-Case Argument. I address this rejoinder by identifying a still more fundamental problem shared by all viable interpretations of the manipulation cases, showing that each involves a type of manipulation which undermines the victim's agency. Because this diagnosis supports a soft-line reply to every viable interpretation of the argument and can be endorsed by any compatibilist, I consider it the final piece of the Soft-line Solution to the Four-Case Argument. Finally, I suggest a new taxonomy of manipulation arguments, arguing that none that employs the suppressive variety of manipulation found in Pereboom's argument offers a threat to compatibilism
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