Defending (a modified version of) the Zygote Argument

Patrick Todd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Think of the last thing someone did to you to seriously harm or offend you. And now imagine, so far as you can, becoming fully aware of the fact that his or her action was the causally inevitable result of a plan set into motion before he or she was ever even born, a plan that had no chance of failing. Should you continue to regard him or her as being morally responsible-blameworthy, in this case-for what he or she did? Many have thought that, intuitively, you should not. Recently, Alfred Mele has employed this line of thought to mount what many have taken to be a powerful argument for incompatibilism: the "Zygote Argument". However, in interesting new papers, John Martin Fischer and Stephen Kearns have each independently argued that the Zygote Argument fails. As I see it, the criticisms of Fischer and Kearns reveal some important questions about how the argument is meant to be-or how it would best be-understood. Once we make a slight (but important) modification to the argument, however, I think we will be able to see that the criticisms of Fischer and Kearns do not detract from its substantial force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • The Zygote Argument
  • Incompatibilism
  • Compatibilism
  • Moral responsibility
  • Manipulation arguments
  • Alfred Mele
  • Free will


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