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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Semicompatibilism and Its Rivals

Author: Fischer John Martin

About author:
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of California in Riverside. Address: HMNSS Bldg, 900 University ave., 92521 Riverside, CA, USA. E-mail:

The author of this article, one of the most prominent compatibilists in contemporary philosophy, provides an overview of his “framework for moral responsibility” and argues for his theory of semi-compatibilism. He also discusses a number of reasons to prefer his theory against rival views in contemporary compatibilism. The key motivating idea for this theory stems from the appeal of a certain sort of “resiliency.” He argues that our fundamental status as free and responsible agents “should not depend on certain subtle ruminations of theoretical physicists.” The theory of freedom and responsibility should be compatible both with causal determinism and with causal indeterminism. This version of compatibilism includes three main concepts: the concept of guidance control, the concept of reasons-responsiveness and the concept of “ownership.” The concept of guidance control defines the kind of control that is relevant for freedom and responsibility, but does not require alternative possibilities. The concept of reasons-responsiveness defines the ability to recognize and apply reasons, including moral reasons in a person’s decision-making process. The concept of ownership defines how the mechanism that leads the agent to action should be connected with the person of the agent. The author argues that his approach is better than rival compatibilist accounts because of its three main features. First, his theory does not depend on the truth of causal determinism or causal indeterminism. Second, his theory does not involve hierarchical structures of consciousness that generate a number of problems in contending theories. Third, the theory of guidance control can explain the cases weak-willed actions. All these advantages are shown by pointing out the relevant problems within compatibilist theories of Harry Frankfurt and Gary Watson.

Keywords: guidance control; hierarchical accounts of acting freely; reasons responsiveness; regulative control; semicompatibilism

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