Personal Reactive Attitudes and Partial Responses to Others: A Partiality-Based Approach to Strawson’s Reactive Attitudes

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 25 (2):323-345 (2023)
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This paper argues for a new understanding of Strawson’s distinction between personal, impersonal, and self-reactive attitudes. Many Strawsonians take these basic reactive attitude types to be distinguished by two factors. Is it the self or another who is treated with good- or ill-will? And is it the self or another who displays good- or ill-will? On this picture, when someone else wrongs me, my reactive attitude is personal; when someone else wrongs someone else, my reactive attitude is impersonal; and when I wrong someone else, my attitude is self-reactive. Against this account, I argue that the basic reactive attitude types are better distinguished according to whether they express partial or impartial concern. This fits Strawson’s discussion in “Freedom and Resentment”, and it allows us to see an important point that the alternative approach obscures. Namely, while attitudes like resentment, gratitude, shame, and pride can arise as responses to our own treatment and behavior, they can also arise as third-party responses to the treatment and behavior of our family members, romantic partners, and close friends. Similarly, attitudes like moral indignation and disapprobation also have a wider scope than is often acknowledged; they can arise as responses to others’ treatment, but they can also arise as responses to our own treatment when we react impartially to circumstances involving ourselves.

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Author's Profile

Rosalind Chaplin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1982 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free will. New York: Oxford University Press.
Articulating an uncompromising forgiveness.Pamela Hieronymi - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3):529-555.
4. Responsibility and the Limits of Evil: Variations on a Strawsonian Theme.Gary Watson - 1993 - In John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza (eds.), Perspectives on moral responsibility. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 119-148.
Responsibility as Answerability.Angela M. Smith - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (2):99-126.
Role obligations.Michael O. Hardimon - 1994 - Journal of Philosophy 91 (7):333-363.

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