Defusing Existential and Universal Threats to Compatibilism: A Strawsonian Dilemma for Manipulation Arguments

Journal of Philosophy 119 (3):144-161 (2022)
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Many manipulation arguments against compatibilism rely on the claim that manipulation is relevantly similar to determinism. But we argue that manipulation is nothing like determinism in one relevant respect. Determinism is a "universal" phenomenon: its scope includes every feature of the universe. But manipulation arguments feature cases where an agent is the only manipulated individual in her universe. Call manipulation whose scope includes at least one but not all agents "existential manipulation." Our responsibility practices are impacted in different ways by universal and existential phenomena. And this is a relevant difference, especially on Strawsonian approaches to moral responsibility, which take facts about our responsibility practices to be deeply connected to the nature of responsibility itself. We argue that Strawsonian accounts of moral responsibility are immune to manipulation arguments, and no attempt to modify the scope of manipulation or determinism featured in these arguments will help incompatibilists secure their desired conclusion.

Author Profiles

Andrew James Latham
Aarhus University
Hannah Tierney
University of California, Davis


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