Hermela Mebrahtu Intro to Philosophy ProfessorKrull Harry Frankfurt There is freewill, the idea of havingno/limited alternatives is the illusion and moral responsibility cannot beavoided. Frankfurt’s argument is that a personcan be morally responsible for their actions even if there was no otherpossible alternative to their action. According to Frankfurt the principle ofalternative possibilities is false, the universe functions with law like orderand the past determines the future but some of our actions can still beconsidered fairly free. This view is known as compatibilism or soft determinismit’s like a middle ground between hard determinism and libertarian free will.Compatibilism states that the thought process in our head is free from outsideinfluences consequently, we have free will. It also claims the deterministicview that our future is determined by our past. The choices we are faced withare due to the choices we made in the past and although we have choices thedeterministic views of compatibilism state that our outcome/future will stillbe one. An example could be being pushed into a pool or jumping into a pool, inthe first case the cause is the pusher and in the second it is the jumper theresult is the same you end up in the pool.
According to Henry you will end upin the pool regardless but when a person is jumping in the action is caused bya factor internal to that person this choice is therefore considered free andthe person morally responsible for that action. This means that we might have amoral responsibility for our actions since the determination for our acts cancome from ourselves. Another example would be if you wanted to watch a movieand you would have watched it on your own but now it’s playing in class and youdon’t actually have any choice, are you watching it freely? The principle ofalternative possibilities would say that you were not free since you were madeto watch the movie but Frankfurt argues that you are still clearly responsiblefor watching the movie even though you were made to watch it and couldn’t havedone otherwise.
Frankfurt’s theory is based on the intuition that most of ushave, the idea that you are responsible for the actions you have chosen andyour choice needs to come from within yourself and not from outside factors. If we are still determined by our owninternal factors then how are we still responsible? For example, people withbrain tumors, if a growth in your brain causes you to have impulses you have nocontrol over, are you acting freely when you act on those urges. This is alsotrue for mental patients can we hold them responsible for their actions. Afterall, the causes of mental illness and brain tumor are internal to themselves.
For Frankfurt these people are considered free, and yet it seems wrong to blamesomeone who is suffering from hallucinations in the same way a person which is”in their right mind”, which is why the law accounts for people ofsuch disabilities to get help and treatment and not punishment. Moreover,Frankfurt’s view is vague on how to differentiate an internal factor from anexternal one. For instance a group of friends pressuring you to skip class isan external factor but your desire to conform or even your desire to not carewhat others think is an internal factor.
But then again isn’t how you areresponding to the “peer pressure” based on your personality, A personality shaped by your family, friends, environment,earlier experiences and so on this would mean it is unclear therefore if thefactor was internal or external. If we can’t separate internal and externalcauses then how are we to determine whether our action is free or not. Frankfurt would still argue thatfreewill is compatible with the truth of determinism, a person is free as longas he’s free from any outer or inner compulsion that would prevent them him/heracting on his/her actual desires. For instance, if someone lies based on theirdesire to lie and not based on any other factor, his actions are an expressionof his desires and intentions that’s all the free will you need.
Even if ourdesires and thoughts are the product of unconscious causes they are still ourthoughts and actions. The fact that we can’t always be aware of the causes ofour conscious thoughts and actions does not nullify free will because yourunconscious mentality is just as much you as your conscious one since they bothsum up to the totality of you being yourself.From a moral view the Frankfurt’s argumentmisses the point what is the freedom in doing what one desires when the desiresare the product of previous causes which the agent cannot inspect and thereforecould not choose and had no hand in creating.