1969 was an ideal time to be a compatibilist. Most people in the debate still believed that the ability to do otherwise was consistent with determinism. Yet, thanks to publication of Frankfurt's "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility", there were also good reasons to believe that even if the incompatibilist could show that the ability to do otherwise was not consistent with determinism, agents could still be morally responsible in a deterministic world. This two pronged defense of compatibilism seemed to give the compatibilist an amazing advantage. What I want to suggest here is a way to return to the good ole days.
Today, classical compatibilists and semi-compatibilists seem to spend almost as much time arguing with each other as confronting incompatibilists. Dispositional compatibilists frequently argue that Frankfurt cases are nothing more than finkish dispositions. A live wire can be attached to a safety device that would cut the circuit upon sensing the approach of a conductor. While the wire is live, it would not deliver a charge to a conductor that made contact with it. Instead, it would have lost that dispositional property upon sensing the approaching conductor. Dispositional compatibilists often argue that the same thing is true in a Frankfurt case. Jones has the ability to do otherwise before the device kicks in. Yet, would lose that ability once the device is activated.
Yet, is this really a problem for Frankfurt's argument? Frankfurt argues that both on a counterfactual account of the ability to do otherwise and on the libertarian variety, the ability to do otherwise is not required for moral responsibility. It seems to me that his argument was extraordinarily successful. What Frankfurt did not argue is that the ability to do otherwise is not necessary for moral responsibility on any conceivable account of abilities. He never claimed to have a crystal ball.
The strongest defense of compatibilism is to adopt a compatibilist account of the ability to do otherwise while embracing the lesson we learn from Frankfurt cases. Frankfurt teaches us that neither the incompatibilist nor the conditional compatibilist accounts of the ability to do otherwise are necessary for moral responsibility (not that PAP is false, but that it is false on the interpretations of the ability to do otherwise that were present when Frankfurt wrote). So, even if the incompatibilist can prove that her account of the ability to do otherwise is the correct account, she still has more work to do in order to show that we cannot be morally responsible in a deterministic world. Embracing a compatibilist account of the ability to do otherwise adds the advantage that even if the incompatibilist could show how Frankfurt cases fail, she would still have more work to do. She would have to show why an incompatibilist account of the ability to do otherwise is better than the compatibilist account. Shouldn't compatibilists and semi-compatibilists strive to return to the good ole days when compatibilism about the ability to do otherwise was extraordinarily popular, and Frankfurt added additional support for compatibilism.