A Defense Of Compatibilism

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




In this dissertation I defend compatibilism, the view that we can be free and morally responsible for what we do even if determinism is true. I consider in detail the traditional arguments for the rival view of incompatibilism and find each argument flawed. I also argue that compatibilism is unacceptable if it is based on a regularity view of causation, a utilitarian account of moral responsibility, or any of the popular hypothetical accounts of the capacity to do otherwise. I clarify and defend J. J. C. Smart's nonhypothetical account of the capacity to do otherwise and make his account the basis of the claim that determinism and freedom are compatible. I advance two arguments for the compatibility of determinism and moral responsibility. The first argument rests on the claim that since non-causally determined choices and acts would be purely random, we would not be morally responsible for them. The second argument rests on two claims: (i) the claim that freedom and determinism are compatible, and (ii) the claim that, given a "morally significant context," freedom is sufficient for moral responsibility. My claim is that the relation between freedom and moral responsibility is not what it has been generally thought to be. In partial support of this last claim, I offer an analysis of 'X did A freely'. I distinguish four varieties of compatibilism and argue that while two of these varieties are plausible, the other two varieties, including the most popular one, are implausible.


Religion, Philosophy of

Link to Full Text