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The Modern Schoolman

Volume 88, Issue 1/2, January/April 2011

Free Will and Moral Responsibility

C. P. Ragland
Pages 51-71
DOI: 10.5840/schoolman2011881/24

Softening Fischer’s Hard Compatibilism

According to “hard” compatibilists, we can be responsible for our actions not only when they are determined by mindless natural causes, but also when some agent other than ourselves intentionally determines us to act as we do. “Soft” compatibilists consider freedom compatible with merely natural determinism, but not with intentional determinism (e.g., theological determinism). Because he believes there is no relevant difference (NRD) between a naturally determined agent and a relevantly similar intentionally determined agent, John Martin Fischer is a hard compatibilist. However, he argues for “historical” compatibilism by appealing to the intuition that certain manipulated agents are not responsible. By considering a new type of manipulation case, I show that Fischer’s appeal to ordinary intuitions about manipulation conflicts with NRD, so that he must choose between the two. The closing section explains why I think going “soft” is Fischer’s better option.