An Evaluation of Derk Pereboom's Four-Case Argument

Copula 35:16 (2018)
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Hard incompatibilism is a view which asserts that determinism and free will are inconsistent and given the facts of our best sciences determinism is true; and hence, free will does not exist. Not only that, it also claims that if the world were indeterministic and our actions were caused by states or events, still we would lack free will. In this way, it denies the truth of any libertarian account of free will based on event causation. In that sense, this is a hard position. Regarding moral responsibility, this hard incompatibilism claims that human agents are not morally responsible for their actions, unless they are the ultimate originators (agent-causes) of the actions in question. Derk Pereboom has offered an argument in favor of his hard incompatibilism, aka hard determinism, in which he shows four different hypothetical situations (thought experiments, indeed) each of which is aimed to prove that we are not morally responsible for what we do. The argument is, thus, known as four-case argument. In the present paper, Pereboom’s four-case argument is examined and defended. It has been shown here that Pereboom is quite correct, if we consider the true sense of the term ‘moral responsibility.’ This ‘true sense’ of the term “moral responsibility” is considered as the strong sense of moral responsibility in this paper. However, a weak sense of the term “moral responsibility” has also been proposed in this paper. This proposed weak sense of “moral responsibility” can accommodate most of the socially-approved ways of ascriptions of responsibility. And finally, it has been claimed that our general intuition that every event has a cause and we are not the ultimate sources of our actions is true from the strong sense of moral responsibility; and our commonsense intuition that as human beings we are inherently free and responsible for our actions is true from the weak sense of moral responsibility.

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Mostofa Nazmul Mansur
Jahangirnagar University


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