What is a self-forming action according to Robert Kane? Define and give an example for discussion.



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(i)                Long quotes do not count, so if a quote takes up a third of a page, that doesn’t count for the length requirement. More importantly all quotes must be explained in your own words. Advice: quote when (i) controversial things are said (ii) obscure things are said but seem important (iii) beautifully put points are made.

(ii)              Your essay must have structure: there must be sections and the sections must have useful titles helping the reader follow the debate  

(iii)            One section must be the Introduction....” An introduction must state your conclusion as a thesis statement

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(v)              Use whatever style manual you prefer best, but 4-7 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font.



Topic One: Kane’s Libertarianism and the problem of Luck


[1] What is a self-forming action according to Robert Kane? Define and give an example for discussion.


[2] State the problem of luck when determinism is false.  Explain how indeterminism allegedly undermines moral responsibility by allegedly introducing luck into our choosing. Make explicit reference to Alfred

Mele’s article and his example of the goddess Diana to explain the argument from luck.


[3] Explain how Kane responds to the concerns about luck. Discuss the assassin case, the woman making a torn decision and any other case that is important. 


[3] Take a stand and adjudicate: If my choice to do X is not determined by my desires and motives to choose X, then can I be blamed for choosing to do X? Attempt to support either Kane or Mele (or neither) in your discussion, but give reasons for what you think the truth is. 




Topic Two: The Principle of Alternate Possibilities [PAP]


It is a common and plausible claim that a person is responsible for what they choose to do, only if they could have chosen or done otherwise, PAP. It is also common to believe that if we are determined then we cannot choose otherwise. But Frankfurt famously argued that PAP has exceptions and so is not true.


(i)                Introduce the topic and then state the standard argument for why determinism is inconsistent with holding a person responsible that uses PAP as a premise in the argument.  Explain that argument very briefly (as a way of introducing the importance of PAP.)

(ii)              Explain Frankfurt’s argument/counterexample against PAP in detail. (Don’t forget to discuss the various coercion scenarios F mentions and the pint he is getting at)

(iii)            Research: find an article on this topic that attempts to refute Frankfurt and explain their objection to his argument-via-counterexample.  Submit that article along with your essay.                                                                                                     

(iv)            Evaluate: Is Frankfurt correct to think that PAP is false? Can we be morally responsible even if we are not free?





Topic Three: Strawson and Ultimate Responsibility.


According to Galen Strawson, no one is ultimately responsible for what they choose to do.

(i)                Explain what Strawson means by “moral responsibility”.                                                       


(ii)              Explain Strawson’s “regress” argument and his basic argument regarding “self-creation” for the claim no one is responsible for what they choose to do. Be sure to tell a story of a person’s life (maybe two people is better) to illustrate his regress argument.                                                                                                                                    .                                                                                                                                          

(iii)            Explain Strawson’s response to the idea that if we weren’t determined we could be responsible.


(iv)            Critically evaluate, is Strawson right? Is no one responsible? Or could we be if we weren’t determined?




Topic Four: Hume’s Essay


Hume believes that our free choices are determined choices. How is that possible?


[1] Explain Hume’s reasons for believing our choices are determined. Do not forget to mention an example he offers to support his reasoning.


[2] Explain what Hume means by free will or free choice. Give an example of free will and give an example of lacking free will, according to this account to make the meaning clear.


[3] Explain how the two ideas can be are logically compatible, according to Hume


[4] Offer some criticism of his view. Can we deny his definition of free will or deny the determinism in human choice, or is there some other error in his thinking? Discuss.

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