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Contrastive Explanations: A Dilemma for Libertarians

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Abstract:

Abstract

To the extent that indeterminacy intervenes between our reasons for action and our decisions, intentions and actions, our freedom seems to be reduced, not enhanced. Free will becomes nothing more than the power to choose irrationally. In recognition of this problem, some recent libertarians have suggested that free will is paradigmatically manifested only in actions for which we have reasons for both or all the alternatives. In these circumstances, however we choose, we choose rationally. Against this kind of account, most fully developed by Robert Kane, critics have pressed the demand for contrastive explanations. Kane has responded by arguing that the demand does not need to be met: responsibility for an action does not require that there be a contrastive explanation of that action. However, this response proves too much: it implies that agents are responsible not only for the actions they choose, but also for the counterfactual actions which were equally available to them.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-8361.2005.01004.x

Affiliations: Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia;, Email: nllevy@unimelb.edu.au

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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