Blameworthiness as Deserved Guilt

The Journal of Ethics 21 (1):89-115 (2017)
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It is often assumed that we are only blameworthy for that over which we have control. In recent years, however, several philosophers have argued that we can be blameworthy for occurrences that appear to be outside our control, such as attitudes, beliefs and omissions. This has prompted the question of why control should be a condition on blameworthiness. This paper aims at defending the control condition by developing a new conception of blameworthiness: To be blameworthy, I argue, is most fundamentally to deserve to feel guilty. Being blamed by someone else is not necessarily harmful to the wrongdoer. The blame might not be expressed, or the wrongdoer might not care. But to blame oneself necessarily involves suffering. This conception of blameworthiness explains why the control condition should obtain: We are morally blameworthy for A only if A was under our control because to be blameworthy is to deserve to feel guilty, to feel guilty is to suffer, and one deserves to suffer for A only if A was under one’s control.

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Andreas Brekke Carlsson
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Citations of this work

Opting for the Best: Oughts and Options.Douglas W. Portmore - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
Moral Responsibility.Matthew Talbert - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The paradox of self-blame.Patrick Todd & Brian Rabern - 2022 - American Philosophical Quarterly 59 (2):111–125.

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References found in this work

Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility.John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza - 1998 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mark Ravizza.
Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life.Derk Pereboom - 2014 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.

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