Reviewing the Situation
Marcela Herdova (King's College London)

February 14, 2014, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Humanities Bldg, Room 311
900 13th St South
Birmginham 35294-1260
United States


Joshua May
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Abstract: According to situationism, arbitrary environmental factors have significant influence on how we behave without us being aware of this fact. It has been argued that because we are not aware of the influence that these situational factors have on our actions, this suggests that (a) one's (conscious) control over his or her behaviour is greatly reduced and that (b) agents do not know why they act in the way they do. I shall argue that the threat of situationism has been exaggerated and that situationism - if true - does not undermine freedom and moral responsibility (both on compatibilist and incompatibilist accounts). I discern five (alleged) threats to free agency and moral responsibility: these include lack of knowledge or uniformed decision-making; failing to act for reasons; the lack of cross-situationally stable character; diminished control over one's actions; and the problem of moral luck. I then argue against the threat of situationism in two ways. First of all, I challenge the significance of some of the studies typically utilized in support of situationism. Secondly, I tackle the individual concerns listed above and explain why situationism does not give rise to these threats and/or why these threats are not relevant to the question of freedom and responsibility.

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