Why Frankfurt examples don't beg the question: a reply to Woodward

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In a recent article in the Journal of Social Philosophy, Paul Woodward argues
that “Frankfurt examples” (as he calls them; hereafter FEs) beg the question
against incompatibilists. FEs, named after Harry Frankfurt, who first noticed
their apparent importance, are designed to show that alternative possibili-
ties are not necessary for moral responsibility. Woodward claims that they do
no such thing. If he is right, this is an important finding, which would bring
an entire philosophical cottage industry to a halt, since FEs have provided the
focus around which a great deal of recent work on moral responsibility has
turned. In this paper, I will show that Woodward is not right: For all he
shows, at least, there is no significant sense in which FEs beg the question
against incompatibilists. The demands Woodward makes upon proponents
of FEs cannot be met, not because there is anything fallacious about FEs, but
because these demands are out of place in moral philosophy. Incompatibilists
who reject FEs, as much as their proponents, must rely upon the kind of argu-
mentative strategies Woodward condemns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-215
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Social Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


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