Rescuing Responsibility – and Freedom. A Compatibilist Treatment (pages 9-27)

Curran F. Douglass

ABSTRACT: This paper confronts two questions: How is it possible to be free if causal determinism is true?; and relatedly, How then is the practice of holding persons responsible for their actions to be justified? On offer here is a compatibilist account of freedom, tying it to control; the relation – argued to be a necessary connection – is considered in some detail. Then the question of ability to ‘do otherwise’ is discussed, which has held a fascination for many in regard to free choice. Our ability to learn to choose rationally is key here, to becoming able to choose well and (hence) freely, freedom being understood realistically. A developed rationality is necessary for maximal free choice, and (as argued here) is also key to the justification of the practice of holding persons responsible for their actions – a practice which is both necessary (socially indispensable) and capable of being justified, on both moral and pragmatic grounds. There is nothing in determinism that threatens that justification, but rather enables it.

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