Is there a freedom requirement for moral responsibility?*

Phillip D. Gosselina1

a1 Brandon University

The Principle that freedom is necessary for moral responsibility (hereafter referred to as “the freedom principle”) has received a variety of explications, but few philosophers have doubted that in some plausible sense it is true. However, two philosophers have recently challenged it using very different but equally ingenious arguments. J.F.M. Hunter has provided the more obviously direct attack in arguing that considerations of freedom as such are in no way relevant to assessments of moral responsibility. Harry Frankfurt has directed his fire at the version of the freedom principle which says that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. Both Frankfurt and Hunter point out the significance of their arguments for the determinism/moral responsibility debate: if there is no freedom requirement for moral responsibility, then even if determinism threatens freedom, it does not follow that determinism threatens moral responsibility.


* I wish to thank David Zimmerman of Simon Fraser University for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper delivered to the 1977 meeting of the Western Canadian Philosophical Association.