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Chapter 10

PHIL 201 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Harry Frankfurt, Compatibilism, Chocolate Cake

Course Code
PHIL 201
C. Kenneth Waters

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Harry G. Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person"
contemporary compatibilists or traditional compatibilist?
It demonstrates that being able to do otherwise is not necessary for free agency
Frankfurt locates freedom solely within the self
1. first-order desire
- These are desires simple in nature and resemble animal desires to eat,
sleep, feel comfortable
2. second-order desires
- According to Frankfurt, the following features distinguishes persons from
non-persons; persons have second-order desires
+ I want my desire for the chocolate cake to be
- Second-order desires are complex and arise from analysis, comparison,
and identification
- These desires are human beings’ phenomena which animals do not have
Frankfurt tend to argue that moral responsibility has little if anything to do with
determinism, since it arises from people’s desires and attitudes rather than from the
causal origins of their actions
According to Frankfurt to have free will is to be able to will what you want to will.
Harry Frankfurt illustrates the concepts of freedom of will and freedom of action
Frankfurt believes that there is a difference between freedom of an action chosen by the
person and the freedom to commit the action through self will
the difference between a person and an animal
(Frankfurt argues for a different compatibilist position from the traditional one)
He takes the following approach to formulate his position:
(a) identify what distinguishes a "person" from an animal or non-person,
(b) suggest that that quality is free will,
(c) show why his conception of free will is superior to others,
(d) explain how his notion of free will relates to moral responsibility
The bottom line about second-order desires is that we can reflect on our current set of
desires, evaluate them, and form second-level desires about those desires
Frankfurt makes a distinction between two types of 2nd-order desires: one that illustrates
freedom of the will and one that doesn't. In the first case we have a desire about which of
our 1st-order desires will cause us to act. In the second, we want to have the experience of
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