Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: Toward a Wider Theory of Moral Responsibility

Ethics 121 (3):602-632 (2011)
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Recently T. M. Scanlon and others have advanced an ostensibly comprehensive theory of moral responsibility—a theory of both being responsible and being held responsible—that best accounts for our moral practices. I argue that both aspects of the Scanlonian theory fail this test. A truly comprehensive theory must incorporate and explain three distinct conceptions of responsibility—attributability, answerability, and accountability—and the Scanlonian view conflates the first two and ignores the importance of the third. To illustrate what a truly comprehensive theory might look like, I investigate what it would say about the difficult case of the psychopath.



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David Shoemaker
Cornell University

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