Frankfurt in fake barn country

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


It is very widely held that Frankfurt-style cases - in which a counterfactual intervener stands by to bring it about that an agent performs an action but never actually acts because the agent performs that action on her own - show that free will does not require alternative possibilities. This essay argues that that conclusion is unjustified, because merely counterfactual interveners may make a difference to normative properties. It presents a modified version of a fake barn case to show how a counterfactual intervener can make the difference between an agent knowing a fact or merely truly believing that fact, by eliminating veretic epistemic luck. If counterfactual interveners can make this kind of difference to the epistemic status of agents, the essay argues, there is no reason why they can't make an analogous difference to agents' moral responsibility. It concludes that reflection on these cases reveals that despite the mountains of words spilled on the topic, we still don't fully understand what role access to alternative possibilities plays in whether or not agents are morally responsible for their actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-542
Number of pages14
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


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