Two faces of desert

Philosophical Studies 169 (3):401-424 (2014)
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There are two broadly competing pictures of moral responsibility. On the view I favor, to be responsible for some action is to be related to it in such a way that licenses attributing certain properties to the agent, properties like blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Responsibility is attributability. A different view understands being responsible in terms of our practices of holding each other responsible. Responsibility is accountability, which “involves a social setting in which we demand (require) certain conduct from one another and respond adversely to one another’s failures to comply with these demands” (Watson, Philos Top 24:227–248, 1996). My concern here is the relation between moral responsibility and desert. Plausibly, if someone is morally responsible for something wrong then they deserve blame, and it is on the basis of them being morally responsible and its being wrong that they deserve blame. In this paper, I try to make progress toward understanding why it would follow that being morally responsible for something supports a desert claim. I propose to do this by exploring how the “two faces” of responsibility should proceed. An important upshot is that we gain a new currency by which to evaluate extant theories of responsibility that might favor one or the other conception: do they carry plausible desert commitments? To illustrate this benefit, I argue that accountability theory carries implausible implications for deserved praise



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Matt King
University of Alabama, Birmingham

Citations of this work

Praise.Daniel Telech - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (10):1-19.
Praise as Moral Address.Daniel Telech - 2021 - Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 7.
Demanding more of Strawsonian accountability theory.Daniel Telech - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):926-941.
Communicating Praise.Daniel Telech - 2023 - In Maximilian Kiener (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Responsibility. Routledge.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - New York, US: Oxford University Press USA.
Freedom Within Reason.Susan R. Wolf - 1990 - New York: Oup Usa.

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