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Freedom and responsibility: An agent -causal view

Meghan Elizabeth Griffith, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this dissertation, I argue that we ought to accept an agent-causal view of free and responsible action. First, I set the stage for this claim by highlighting our intuitions regarding moral responsibility and freedom, and by ruling out competing positions. I support Harry Frankfurt's claim that responsibility does not require the ability to do otherwise. I go beyond this claim, however, to argue that responsibility requires that one be the true originator of one's action, and that this requires a kind of freedom that is incompatible with determinism. To bolster this last claim, I argue against the compatibilist, “guidance control” view of John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza. I believe the weaknesses of their interesting and compelling view denote potential problems for any compatibilist position. After arguing for incompatibilism, I argue against non-agent-causal incompatibilist views. Specifically, I argue against Robert Kane's “teleological intelligibility theory.” In the final chapters of my project, I lay out my agent-causal view. I argue that agent-causation is possible and coherent if one accepts a realist view of causes. I appeal to Randolph Clarke's idea that the relation between agent and cause is the same relation as that between event and cause. This serves to alleviate the “mysteriousness” of agent-causation. Having shown that it is possible and coherent, and having ruled out competing views in preceding chapters, I am now in position to claim that agent-causation is the correct view. I also demonstrate that it is a compelling position in its own right because it accords with our most basic understanding of ourselves as agents.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Griffith, Meghan Elizabeth, "Freedom and responsibility: An agent -causal view" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3078689.