Incompatibilist arguments and compatibilist rebuttals

  • Wai Sing FOOK

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


The issue concerning the compatibility between free will and determinism has long been a hotly debated topic in philosophy. The debate matters because free will is believed to be intimately related to moral responsibility. My research aims at providing a picture of the landscape of one philosophical position on this debate --- incompatibilism. Incompatibilism is the doctrine that claims free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. A major part of this thesis is a critical survey of three of the most influential (types of) arguments for incompatibilism; they are the Consequence Argument, the Transfer of Nonresponsibility Argument, and the Manipulation Argument. Compatibilist rebuttals that have been proposed for dealing satisfactorily with these incompatibilist arguments are thoroughly examined. After sufficiently outlining the core rationale behind these incompatibilist arguments and the rebuttals to them, I argue that the Consequence Argument is, among the three arguments, the most tenable one. Since the Transfer of Non-responsibility Argument and the Manipulation Argument don’t have any clear advantage over it and it has great success in illuminating incompatibilist intuitions. Incompatibilists should rely on it to argue for incompatibilism. At the end of the paper, I switch to briefly discuss the bottom-line disagreements between compatibilists and incompatibilists. I contend that compatibilists and incompatibilists often have different aspirations. In light of this, I conclude that faithful compatibilists are seldom persuaded to climb over the fence to incompatibilism.
Date of Award13 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University

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