“Screw you!” & “thank you”

Philosophical Studies 165 (3):893-914 (2013)
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If I do you a good turn, you may respond with gratitude and express that gratitude by saying “Thank you.” Similarly, if I insult you, you may react with resentment which you express by shouting, “Screw you!” or something of the sort. Broadly put, when confronted with another’s morally significant conduct, we are inclined to respond with a reactive attitude and to express that reactive attitude in speech. A number of familiar speech acts have a call-and-response structure. Questions, demands and hails are all call-types, and each seeks a defining response. Questions seek answers, demands seek compliance, and a hail, for example, “Hi Coleen” seeks a “Hi” in return. Many theorists claim that expressions of the reactive attitudes also have this structure. Yet, this insight raises a number of questions. There are, after all, many familiar call-types, not only questions, demands and hails, but also requests, invitations, recommendations and entreaties. Given this, it is natural to wonder whether the expressed reactive attitudes are a sui generis call-type or whether they can be properly assimilated to one of the better-known forms. Further, we might wonder about the response component. It is utterly familiar that the response suited to a demand is compliance, and that the response sought by a question is an answer, but what response do the expressed reactive attitudes seek? The answer to this question is not similarly ready to hand. In this paper, I provide a recognition-based theory of the call-and-response structure of the expressed reactive attitudes. On my account, both the positive and negative expressed reactive attitudes are modes of recognition that seek for their target to give expression to her recognition of having been appropriately recognized. In the negative case, the target does this by feeling and expressing guilt or remorse, and in the positive case, by feeling and expressing self-approbation



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Coleen Macnamara
University of California, Riverside

Citations of this work

Scaffolding agency: A proleptic account of the reactive attitudes.Victoria McGeer - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):301-323.
Reactive Attitudes as Communicative Entities.Coleen Macnamara - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):546-569.
Praise as Moral Address.Daniel Telech - 2021 - Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 7.
Praise.Daniel Telech - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (10):1-19.
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References found in this work

How to do things with words.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press. Edited by Marina Sbisá & J. O. Urmson.
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.

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