Vol. 37 No. 2 (2017): Ethics, Law and Cognitive Science

Responsibility and the Relevance of Alternative Future Possibilities

Felipe De Brigard
Department of Philosophy Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Published 2017-12-21


  • experimental philosophy,
  • experimental psychology,
  • free will,
  • responsibility,

How to Cite

Responsibility and the Relevance of Alternative Future Possibilities. (2017). Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 37(2), 27-36. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v37i2.15


In the past decade, philosophical and psychological research on people’s beliefs about free will and responsibility has skyrocketed. For the most part, these vignette-based studies have exclusively focused on participants’ judgments of the causal history of the events leading up to an agent’s action and considerations about what the agent could have done differently in the past. However, recent evidence suggests that, when judging whether or not an individual is responsible for a certain action – even in concrete, emotionally laden and fully deterministic scenarios – considerations about alternative future possibilities may become relevant. This paper reviews this evidence and suggests a way of interpreting the nature of these effects as well as some consequences for experimental philosophy and psychology of free will and responsibility going forward.