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Moral Responsibility and the Problem of Induced Pro-Attitudes

  • Ishtiyaque Haji (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2010

The problem of induced pro-attitudes is simply this: why is action which ultimately issues from pro-attitudes such as desires, volitions, and goals, induced by techniques such as direct manipulation of the brain, hypnosis, or “value engineering,” frequently regarded as action for which its agent cannot be held morally responsible? The problem is of interest for several reasons. Ferdinand Schoeman, for instance, believes that the problem poses a resolvable but challenging predicament for compatibilists: if agents can be held morally responsible for actions that are causally determined, then why should actions that result from induced pro-attitudes be regarded as paradigmatically unfree actions for which agents cannot be held morally accountable? Robert Kane exploits the problem to launch a libertarian attack on compatibilists. He says that a covert non-constraining controller controls the will of another agent by arranging “circumstances beforehand so that the agent wants and desires, and hence chooses and tries, only what the controller intends.” Kane claims that compatibilist accounts of freedom cannot distinguish between cases in which an agent behaves freely and those in which an agent falls prey to the covert non-constraining control of some other party.

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Ferdinand Schoeman , “Responsibility and the Problem of Induced Desires,” Philosophical Studies, 34 (1978): 293301, p. 293.

Richard Double , “Puppeteers, Hypnotists, and Neurosurgeons,” Philosophical Studies, 56 (1989): 163–73. References in the text are to this work.

Gary Watson , review of Dennett 1984, in the Journal of Philosophy (1986): 517–22.

Autonomy and Blameworthiness,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 24 (1994): 593612.

Paul Russell , “Strawson's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility,” Ethics, 102 (1992): 287302;

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
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