Essay: Harry Franfurt’s Principle of Alternative Possibilities

Sample Essay

A counter argument to the consequence principle challenges all three of its basic concepts. Compatibilists have shown the fallacy of these arguments starting with the argument that states that an individual does not have power over the facts of nature. They challenge this by stating that if an individual did have ability in the past to change his or her decision at a moment then it is possible that the individual may have made a decision other than the one that occurred. And as a consequence of that decision the very facts of nature which exist in the present would have changed to accommodate that decision. It has also been suggested by Michael Slote that these unavoidable factors in a person’s life are not contingent upon his or her ability to cause change and make choices. That despite these factors the individual can affect the future and change its very nature (McKenna, 2004).

Additionally Harry Frankfurt’s principle of alternative possibilities is another argument in favor of compatibilism. The principle of alternative possibilities states that an individual is only morally responsible for his actions if he could not have followed any other course of action. Frankfurt challenges this theory by saying that even if determinism challenges the free will and moral responsibility in any way it does not do so in a way that does not preclude the individual’s choice to be morally responsible. He states that despite the fact that determinism does have factors which are unchangeable no matter how they are viewed it does not infringe on the moral choices that the individual has to make. Meaning that if a person wishes to make a decision to take action, it can occur if the individual is willing to take action according to his motives, no outside source such as determinism can specify whether the individual will not take action (Kane, 2002 p. 111-121).

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