'Can,' Compatibilism, and Possible Worlds

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael Zimmerman, Professor and Philosophy Pre-Law Concentration Advisor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Most compatibilists have sought to defend their view by means of an analysis of the concept of 'can' in terms of subjunctive conditionals.1 Keith Lehrer opposes this analysis;2 he nevertheless embraces compatibilism.3 In a recent paper he has proposed a novel analysis of the concept of 'can' within the framework of possible-world semantics.4 The paper has provoked considerable discussion.5 In it Lehrer claims that he demonstrates the truth of compatibilism (p. 241).6 Others have claimed that this is not so,7 but at least one commentator has asserted that Lehrer's analysis strongly supports compatibilism.8 In this section I shall give a brief exposition of relevant portions of Lehrer's account of 'can' and then in the next section I shall seek to show that it fails to render compatibilism any more plausible than incompatibilism. Indeed, I shall seek to show that, if one of Lehrer's primitive concepts (the concept of an 'advantage') is understood as it seems it should be understood, then there would seem to be good reason to believe that his analysis supports not compatibilism but incompatibilism.

Additional Information

Canadian Journal of Philosophy
Language: English
Date: 1981
Philosophy, Compatibilism

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