It Would be Bad if Compatibilism Were True; Therefore, It Isn't

Philosophical Issues 33 (1):270-284 (2023)
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I want to suggest that it would be bad if compatibilism were true, and that this gives us good reason to think that it isn't. This is, you might think, an outlandish argument, and the considerable burden of this paper is to convince you otherwise. There are two key elements at stake in this argument. The first is that it would be ‐ in a distinctive sense to be explained ‐ bad if compatibilism were true. The thought here is that compatibilism ultimately presents us with a picture on which, in principle, powerful manipulators can effectively guarantee that finite moral agents should become blameworthy. To my mind, this isn't just false ‐ though I think that it is ‐ it is also such that it would be bad (unfortunate, undesirable…) if it were true. The second is that the fact that it would be ‐ in this sense ‐ bad if true gives us reason to think that it isn't. It may be bad that there is no afterlife. But that, in itself, hardly gives us reason to think that there is an afterlife. That is true, but ‐ as others before me have suggested ‐ when the object of the relevant badness is morality itself, the inference seems secure. A more general aim of the paper is to investigate the nature of this very form of argument in itself, and I compare my argument (inter alia) to a recent argument from Sayre–McCord against the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas.

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Patrick Todd
University of Edinburgh


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