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Thoughts about Frankfurt’s Arguments

Thoughts about Frankfurt’s Arguments

According to Frankfurt, people have a moral responsibility for what they have done only if they could have done something different (Robb, 2020). Frankfurt further explains that when people only have one course of action to choose from, they are not morally responsible for what they do. I think this argument is rational because people lose control over their decisions when only one action is available. Therefore, a person cannot be held responsible for an action they took after making a decision they could not control. For example, if someone is held hostage and the only way they can make it out is by obeying the commands of the person holding them hostage, they lack control over their decisions and actions and cannot be morally responsible for what they do because they could not have done something different.

However, it is crucial to determine whether the person is capable of doing what they do when they lack alternatives if the action they choose becomes part of the alternatives before concluding whether they are morally responsible for the action. For instance, if a person being held hostage kills a person because it is the only action they can do to get their freedom, it is important to determine whether the person is capable of murder in ordinary situations. If the person has the capacity to murder with free will, then it can be concluded that they have the moral responsibility for the murder even though a lack of alternatives and pressure from a third party influenced the decision. I also think that Frankfurt’s argument that there are morally responsible people and those who are not morally responsible is valid because people’s moral responsibility is influenced by their values and beliefs, which could vary based on differences in experiences and backgrounds. Therefore, moral responsibility can be judged based on a person’s actions and the circumstances influencing the decision to take a specific action.


Robb, D. (2020, July 9). Moral responsibility and the principle of alternative possibilities. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


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