The Power of Excuses

Philosophy and Public Affairs 47 (1):37-71 (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Excuses are commonplace. Making and accepting excuses is part of our practice of holding each other morally responsible. But excuses are also curious. They have normative force. Whether someone has an excuse for something they have done matters for how we should respond to their action. An excuse can make it appropriate to forgo blame, to revise judgments of blameworthiness, to feel compassion and pity instead of anger and resentment. The considerations we appeal to when making excuses are a motley bunch: tiredness, stress, a looming work deadline, a wailing infant, poverty, duress, ignorance. What unifies these various considerations as a class? In virtue of what can they all excuse? And what does their normative force consist in? This paper aims to develop a unified account of excuses: what they are and what they do. In a nutshell, I argue that excuses are considerations that show that an agent’s wrongdoing does not manifest a specific motivational failing: namely, the lack of a morally adequate present-directed intention. What do excuses do? I suggest that they function as responsibility-modifiers. They alter how the wrongdoer, the wronged party, bystanders may morally respond to a wrong, without negating that it remains appropriate to respond in some way.

Similar books and articles

A theory of the normative force of pleas.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (2):479-502.
Excuse without Exculpation: The Case of Moral Ignorance.Paulina Sliwa - 2010 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 72-95.
A Kantian Quality of Will Account of Excuses.Matthé Scholten - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-27.
Volitional excuses, self-narration, and blame.Marion Smiley - 2014 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 13 (1):85-101.
A puzzle about excuses.Martin Montminy - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Can morally ignorant agents care enough?Daniel J. Miller - 2021 - Philosophical Explorations 24 (2):155-173.
Responsibility and the Abuse Excuse.Michael Stocker - 1999 - Social Philosophy and Policy 16 (2):175.
Excuses, excuses.Marcia Baron - 2007 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 1 (1):21-39.
Concomitant Ignorance Excuses from Moral Responsibility.Robert J. Hartman - 2021 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 10 (1):58-65.

Analytics

Added to PP
2019-06-07

Downloads
173 (#116,386)

6 months
785 (#1,471)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Paulina Sliwa
University of Vienna

Citations of this work

Gendered affordance perception and unequal domestic labour.Tom McClelland & Paulina Sliwa - 2023 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 107 (2):501-524.
Excuse without Exculpation: The Case of Moral Ignorance.Paulina Sliwa - 2010 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 72-95.
Guilt Without Perceived Wrongdoing.Michael Zhao - 2020 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 48 (3):285-314.
Being Fully Excused for Wrongdoing.Daniele Bruno - 2022 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references