Strawson’s modest transcendental argument


Although Peter Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ was published over fifty years ago and has been widely discussed, its main argument is still notoriously difficult to pin down. The most common – but in my view, mistaken – interpretation of Strawson’s argument takes him to be providing a ‘relentlessly’ naturalistic framework for our responsibility practices. To rectify this mistake, I offer an alternative interpretation of Strawson’s argument. As I see it, rather than offering a relentlessly naturalistic framework for moral responsibility, Strawson actually develops a transcendental argument, which grounds our moral responsibility practices in the practical perspective of social agents. However, the aims of this essay are not purely interpretative. Strawson’s essay continues to have important implications for a number of issues that arise in the contemporary debates that concern free will and moral responsibility. In particular, it puts significant pressure on moral responsibility sceptics like Derk Pereboom [Living Without Free Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001] who think that the truth of moral responsibility scepticism has no worrisome implications for our lives with others.

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D. Justin Coates
University of Houston

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 2003 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.
Transcendental Arguments.Barry Stroud - 1968 - Journal of Philosophy 65 (9):241-256.
Transcendental Arguments.Barry Stroud - 1968 - Sententiae 33 (2):51-63.
Imagination and Perception.P. F. Strawson - 1982 - In Ralph Charles Sutherland Walker (ed.), Kant on Pure Reason. Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work

The Value of Perception.Keith Allen - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):633-656.
Strawson’s Method in ‘Freedom and Resentment’.Sybren Heyndels - 2019 - The Journal of Ethics 23 (4):407-423.
The Facts and Practices of Moral Responsibility.Benjamin De Mesel & Sybren Heyndels - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (3):790-811.

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