Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Mark Heller


Determinism, Free Will, Manipulation, Molinism, Moral Responsibility, Principle of Alternative Possibilities

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This dissertation has two primary aims. The first aim is to defend the position that the alternative possibilities that are required for basic desert moral responsibility are incompatible with causal determinism. The second aim is to investigate such incompatibilist alternative possibilities, specifically in relation to manipulation, deliberation, and Molinist counterfactuals of freedom.

In chapter 1, “Fischer’s Deterministic Frankfurt-Style Argument”, I examine John Martin Fischer’s deterministic Frankfurt-style argument against the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP). Fischer attempts to show that if causal determinism rules out an agent’s moral responsibility, it is not in virtue of its eliminating the agent’s alternative possibilities. I contend that, once we focus upon the distinction between entailment and explanation, the incompatibilist defender of PAP can successfully rebut Fischer’s argument. I argue for this claim while granting Fischer a number of assumptions that only render a defense of PAP more difficult. Additionally, I cast doubt upon David Palmer’s critique of Fischer’s argument, which in turn renders my defense of PAP all the more critical.

In chapter 2, “Leeway Compatibilism and Frankfurt-Style Cases”, I examine the new dispositionalists’ defense of the position that an agent in a deterministic Frankfurt-style case (FSC) has the ability to do otherwise, where that ability is the one at issue in PAP. Focusing specifically on Kadri Vihvelin’s proposal, I argue against this position by showing that it is incompatible with the existence of structurally similar cases to FSCs in which a preemptive intervener bestows an agent with an ability.

In chapter 3, “The Manipulation Argument, At the Very Least, Undermines Classical Compatibilism”, I argue precisely what the title suggests. More specifically, I argue that classical compatibilism, in conjunction with any type of reply to the manipulation argument, has counterintuitive implications. In order to avoid such implications, we need not hold that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility. But we must hold that determinism is incompatible with the ability to do otherwise.

In chapter 4, “Manipulating Deliberators”, I offer a counterexample to Derk Pereboom’s account of rational deliberation, and then employ it to develop a four-case manipulated deliberation argument against deliberation compatibilism, the view that rational deliberation is compatible with the belief that one’s actions are causally determined by factors beyond one’s control. Given the structural similarity between my argument and Pereboom’s four-case manipulation argument against compatibilism, both arguments stand or fall to together. As a result, a hard incompatibilist such as Pereboom faces a dilemma: either give up deliberation compatibilism, as well as the view that one can (as a hard incompatibilist) rationally deliberate, or give up the four-case manipulation argument.

In chapter 5, “Counterfactuals of Divine Freedom”, I argue that, contrary to the commonly held position of Luis de Molina, Thomas Flint and others, counterfactuals of divine freedom (CDFs) are pre-volitional for God within the Molinist framework. That is, CDFs are not true even partly in virtue of some act of God’s will. As a result, I argue that the Molinist God fails to satisfy an epistemic openness requirement for rational deliberation, and thus cannot rationally deliberate about which world to actualize.

In chapter 6, “Molinists (Still) Cannot Endorse the Consequence Argument”, I defend Ken Perszyk’s argument for the claim that Molinists cannot consistently endorse the consequence argument because of a structurally similar argument for the incompatibility of true Molinist counterfactuals of freedom (CCFs) and the ability to do otherwise. More specifically, Edward Wierenga has argued that on the proper understanding of CCFs, there is a relevant difference between the consequence argument and the anti-Molinist argument. I argue that, even on Wierenga’s understanding of CCFs, there is in fact no relevant difference between the two arguments. Moreover, I strengthen Perszyk’s argument by highlighting further relevant similarities between CCFs and facts about the laws of nature.


Open Access