Mechanical Choices: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response


Michael S. Moore defends the ideas of free will and responsibility, especially in relation to criminal law, against several challenges from neuroscience. I agree with Moore that morality and the law presuppose a commonsense understanding of humans as rational agents, who make choices and act for reasons, and that to defend moral and legal responsibility, we must show that this commonsense understanding remains viable. Unlike Moore, however, I do not think that classical compatibilism, which is based on a conditional understanding of the ability to do otherwise, provides a sufficiently robust account of free will, even when it is amended as Moore suggests. I argue that free will and responsibility can be defended more robustly by observing that, at the level of agency, there can be alternative possibilities and mental causation in a stronger sense than recognized by classical compatibilism, even if physical determinism is true. Moore’s arguments could thus be strengthened by embracing this compatibilist libertarian position. At the same time, I note that, although the idea of responsibility is robustly defensible, there are independent reasons for rejecting a retributivist approach to punishment.

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Christian List
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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