Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Michael Slote

Second Committee Member

Mark Rowlands

Third Committee Member

Richard Chappell

Fourth Committee Member

Brad Cokelet

Fifth Committee Member

Derk Perebook


Most of us assume we have free will and that we make free decisions all of the time. Yet, philosophers and scientists have provided significant worries about making this assumption. What I want to know, in this project, is how these debates (and the uncertainty and contentious nature of these debates) bear on normative moral theories about what makes an action right or wrong. I will argue that we should still be able to understand morality, regardless of whether it turns out we have free will or not. The challenges facing the free will debate just shouldn’t be a challenge for a normative moral theory as well. Specifically, I will argue that Care Ethical Theory is particularly suited to explaining important moral concepts, such as respect, the reactive attitudes and punishment, without making any assumptions about the existence or the absence of free will or moral responsibility. Care Ethics can say everything we want to say about these concepts while remaining agnostic about the entire contentious free will and moral responsibility debate.


Ethics; Ethical Theory, Care Ethics, Free Will, Moral Responsibility, Determinism