I have argued recently that compatibilism cannot resist in a principled way the temptation to prepunish people, and that it thus emerges as a much more radical view than is typically presented and perceived; and is at odds with fundamental moral intuitions (Smilansky 2007a). Stephen Kearns (2008) has replied, arguing that ‘Smilansky has not shown that compatibilism cannot resist prepunishment. Prepunishment is so bizarre that it can be resisted by just about anybody’. I would like to examine his challenging arguments.

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My claim that compatibilism cannot extricate itself from prepunishment is built on an ingenious argument made in this journal by Christopher New (1992). A person tells us that he is going to commit an offence (drive above the speed limit in Alaska) but that after he does so he will be beyond our reach. Since this person is highly reliable, we...

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