European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):301-323 (2019)

Victoria McGeer
Princeton University
This paper examines the methodological claim made famous by P.F. Strawson: that we understand what features are required for responsible agency by exploring our attitudes and practices of holding responsible. What is the presumed metaphysical connection between holding responsible and being fit to be held responsible that makes this claim credible? I propose a non-standard answer to this question, arguing for a view of responsible agency that is neither anti-realist (i.e. purely 'conventionalist') nor straightforwardly realist. It is instead ‘constructivist’. On the ‘Scaffolding View’ I defend, reactive attitudes play an essential role in developing, supporting, and thereby maintaining the capacities that make for responsible agency. While this view has relatively novel implications for a metaphysical understanding of capacities, its chief virtue, in contrast with more standard views, is providing a plausibly defensible account of how so-called responsible agents genuinely deserve to be treated as such.
Keywords responsibility  scaffolding  capacities  dispositions  reactive attitudes  desert  Strawson  reason-responsiveness
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/ejop.12408
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,811
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141:125-126.
Free Agency.Gary Watson - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (April):205-20.

View all 46 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

XV—Intelligent Capacities.Victoria McGeer - forthcoming - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
Praise as Moral Address.Daniel Telech - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 7.
Demanding More of Strawsonian Accountability Theory.Daniel Telech - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):926-941.
Inadequate Agency and Appropriate Anger.Daphne Brandenburg - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (1):169-185.

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Corporate Crocodile Tears? On the Reactive Attitudes of Corporate Agents.Gunnar Björnsson & Kendy Hess - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):273–298.
Dissolving Reactive Attitudes: Forgiving and Understanding.Lucy Allais - 2008 - South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (3):197-201.
Responsibility and Dignity: Strawsonian Themes.Bennett W. Helm - 2011 - In Carla Bagnoli (ed.), Morality and the Emotions. Oxford University Press. pp. 217-34.
Reactive Attitudes and Personal Relationships.Per-Erik Milam - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (1):102-122.
In Defense of Non-Reactive Attitudes.Per-Erik Milam - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (3):294-307.
Reactive Attitudes and Second-Personal Address.Michelle Mason - forthcoming - In Remy Debes & Karsten Stueber (eds.), Ethical Sentimentalism. Cambridge University Press.
Reactive Attitudes as Communicative Entities.Coleen Macnamara - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):546-569.
Can Emotions Communicate?Trip Glazer - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):234-242.
Moral Blameworthiness and the Reactive Attitudes.Leonard Kahn - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (2):131-142.
Blame, Communication, and Morally Responsible Agency.Coleen Macnamara - 2015 - In Randolph Clarke, Michael McKenna & Angela Smith (eds.), The Nature of Moral Responsibility: New Essays. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 211-236.


Added to PP index

Total views
156 ( #70,766 of 2,463,231 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
25 ( #32,940 of 2,463,231 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes