Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2011
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

Does Moral Responsibility
Require Free Will? (4)

Drawing on the reading and your own sound reasoning and good judgment, make a case for or against the claim that you could have had yogurt instead and that, therefore, is was not irrational of you to blame yourself for having the pizza. In making your case, explain - as best you can - what it is you believe and why you believe it. Propose a possible set of objections to your line of thought and explain how you would address those objections.

In writing about your choice of pizza, think about the implications of the truth or falsity of such a claim for the more general proposition that human beings have free will. Here I am thinking of the question "does our holding others mortally responsible for their actions require free will?" alongside the question: "does it make sense to blame yourself for having pizza, to regret having the pizza, if you do believe you could not have acted otherwise or believe human beings do not have free will?"


In the course of writing your paper, do your best to make it plain which of the following three positions you find most appealing and why:

  • (1) Determinism: Determinism is true, we do not have free will.

  • (2) Libertarianism: We do have free will, determinism is false.

  • (3) Compatibilism: Determinism and free will can be reconciled one with the other without contradiction, i.e., determinism and free will are compatible.

Notice that your efforts are likely to be given a boost by the organization of the readings in the Perry, Bratman and Fischer introductory text:

  • Roderick Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self"
  • Peter Van Inwagen, "The Powers of Rational Beings"
  • David Hume, "Of Liberty and Necessity"
  • Harry Frankfurt, "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility"
  • Harry Frankfurt, "Free Will and the Concept of a Person"
  • Thomas Nagel, "Moral Luck" (optional)
  • P. F. Strawson, "Freedom and Resentment".

    Arranging the readings in the way they have, Perry, Bratman, and Fischer have created what might be called "a space" for lively debate, But you also realize that it would help to sort out what you think before reading any of the readings above if you hope to be able develop anything like a view of your own.

    In making your case identify at least one of the readings from the Perry, Bratman and Fischer text including the essay by Strawson that to your mind stands in strongest opposition to your thesis or creates the greatest difficulties for your point of view and say, in your own words, how you think the author would criticize the claims you make and the position you take and offer your own best response.

Good Luck!