Does moral responsibility require the ability to do otherwise? For example, must one have been able to refrain from an evil deed if one is to be appropriately blamed for it? The answer turns on the truth of a familiar principle:
(PAP) If S is blameworthy for doing X, S must have been able to do otherwise than X.
The traditional view is that (PAP) is true; Frankfurt argued that it was false, with a form of example which is still widely discussed. I’m going to argue for Frankfurt’s conclusion in a way that has nothing to do with Frankfurt-style examples. I’d be interested in feedback.
Blaming (or punishing) someone for failing to live up to a moral standard is a special case of a more general phenomenon. There are many cases where there is some kind of requirement, someone fails to live up to it, and negative consequences are imposed as a result. It is instructive to look at how we view “couldn’t have done otherwise” in these other cases.