Power Over the Past and the Laws of Nature
Implications for Moral Responsibility
Many philosophers hold that moral responsibility presupposes the ability to act otherwise. Further, in a deterministic universe, agents have the ability to act otherwise only if they have power over the past or the laws of nature. However, not much has been said about the relation between this specific power and moral responsibility. The purpose of the project is to examine this relation. The contemporary debate about moral responsibility has mainly focused on necessary and sufficient conditions. We offer a new approach by primarily focusing on what could explain that an agent is morally responsible. First, we aim to explore whether power over the past or the laws of nature can do part of this explanatory job, and our tentative answer is “no”. Second, we will search for explanatory factors to combine with the different accounts of power over the past or the laws of nature. Thirdly, we will investigate whether such a combination provides a sufficient condition for moral responsibility, and, if so, whether power over the past or the laws is a necessary condition. The result will be significant to the discussion on what is required for moral responsibility. It will also advance the debate on how to understand the elusive notion of moral responsibility. Moreover, the project will raise and answer questions in adjacent fields in philosophy such as normative ethics, autonomy and decision theory, as well as in other disciplines like neuroscience, psychology and theory of law.
About the Project
- Erik Carlson, Uppsala University
- Maria Svedberg, Uppsala University (Head of Project)