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Acta Analytica: International Periodical for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition



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The most serious challenge to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) comes in the form of a dilemma: either the counterexample presupposes determinism, in which case it begs the question; or it does not presuppose determinism, in which case it fails to deliver on its promise to eliminate all alternatives that might plausibly be thought to satisfy PAP. I respond to this challenge with a counterexample in whichconsidering an alternative course of action is anecessary condition fordeciding to act otherwise, and the agent does not in fact consider the alternative. I call this a “buffer case,” because the morally relevant alternative is “buffered” by the requirement that the agent first consider the alternative. Suppose further that the agent’s considering an alternative action—entering the buffer zone—is what would trigger the counterfactual intervener. Then it would appear that PAP-relevant alternatives are out of reach.

I defend this counterexample to PAP against three objections: that considering an alternative isitself a morally relevant alternative; that buffer cases can be shown to containother alternatives that arguably satisfy PAP; and that even if the agent’spresent access to PAP-relevant alternatives were eliminated, PAP could still be satisfied in virtue ofearlier alternatives. I conclude that alternative possibilities are a normal symptom, but not an essential constituent, of moral agency.

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