The Principle of Alternate Possibilities and Frankfurt’s Counterexample
The Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP): A person, S, is morally responsible
for doing something only if S could have done otherwise than do it.
“Suppose someone -- Black, let us say -- wants Jones to perform a certain action.
Black is prepared to go to considerable lengths to get his way, but he prefers to
avoid showing his hand unnecessarily. So he waits until Jones is about to make up
his mind what to do, and he does nothing unless it is clear to him (Black is an
excellent judge of such things) that Jones is going to do something other than what
he wants him to do. If it does become clear that Jones is going to decide to do
something else, Black takes effective steps to ensure that Jones decides to do, and
that he does do, what he wants him to do. Whatever Jones’s initial preferences and
inclinations, then, Black will have his way.
What steps will Black take, if he believes he must take steps, in order to ensure that
Jones decides and acts as he wishes?… Let Black pronounce a terrible threat, and in
this way both force Jones to perform the desired action and prevent him from
performing a forbidden one. Let Black give Jones a potion, or put him under
hypnosis, and in some such way as these generate in Jones an