Recently, a number of philosophers have begun to question the commonly held view that choice or voluntary control is a precondition of moral responsibility. According to these philosophers, what really matters in determining a person’s responsibility for some thing is whether that thing can be seen as indicative or expressive of her judgments, values, or normative commitments. Such accounts might therefore be understood as updated versions of what Susan Wolf has called “real self views,” insofar as they attempt to ground (...) an agent’s responsibility for her actions and attitudes in the fact (when it is a fact) that they express who she is as a moral agent. As such, they seem to be open to some of the same objections Wolf originally raised to such accounts, and in particular to the objection that they cannot license the sorts of robust moral assessments involved in our current practices of moral responsibility. My aim in this paper is to try to respond to this challenge, by clarifying the kind of robust moral assessments I take to be licensed by (at least some) non-volitional accounts of responsibility and by explaining why these assessments do not in general require the agent to have voluntary control over everything for which she is held responsible. I also argue that the limited applicability of the distinction between “bad agents” and “blameworthy agents” on these accounts is in fact a mark in their favor. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently argued that we should interpret the debate over moral responsibility as a debate over the conditions under which it would be “fair” to blame a person for her attitudes or conduct. What is distinctive about these accounts is that they begin with the stance of the moral judge, rather than that of the agent who is judged, and make attributions of responsibility dependent upon whether it would be fair or appropriate for a moral judge (...) to react to the agent in various (negative) ways. This is problematic, I argue, because our intuitions about whether and when it would be fair to react negatively to another are sensitive to a host of considerations that appear to have little or nothing to do with an agent’s responsibility or culpability for her attitudes or behavior. If this is correct, then theories which make attributions of responsibility dependent upon the appropriateness of our reactions as moral judges will turn out to be fundamentally misguided. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIt has recently become fashionable among those who write on questions of moral responsibility to distinguish two different concepts, or senses, of moral responsibility via the labels ‘responsibility as attributability’ and ‘responsibility as accountability’. Gary Watson was perhaps the first to introduce this distinction in his influential 1996 article ‘Two Faces of Responsibility’ , but it has since been taken up by many other philosophers. My aim in this study is to raise some questions and doubts about this distinction and (...) to argue that it has led to confusion rather than clarification in debates over moral responsibility. In place of the attributability/accountability distinction, I propose that there is a single concept of moral responsibility underlying our actual moral practices. This core notion of moral responsibility, which I call ‘responsibility as answerability’, is well positioned to explain thos.. (shrink)
There is an apparent tension in our everyday moral responsibility practices. On the one hand, it is commonly assumed that moral responsibility requires voluntary control: an agent can be morally responsible only for those things that fall within the scope of her voluntary control. On the other hand, we regularly praise and blame individuals for mental states and conditions that appear to fall outside the scope of their voluntary control, such as desires, emotions, beliefs, and other attitudes. In order to (...) resolve this apparent tension, many philosophers appeal to a tracing principle to argue that agents are morally responsible for those attitudes whose existence can be traced back, causally, to a voluntary action or omission in the past. My aim in this article is to critically evaluate this tracing strategy and to argue that it gives us a misguided picture of when and why we are morally responsible for our attitudes. I argue that we should accept a ‘judgment sensitivity’ condition of moral responsibility rather than a ‘voluntary control’ condition, and defend this account against various objections. (shrink)
This paper explores one facet of Paul Russell’s unique “critical compatibilist” position on moral responsibility, which concerns his rejection of R. Jay Wallace’s “narrow construal” of moral responsibility as a concept tied exclusively to the Strawsonian reactive attitudes of resentment, indignation, and guilt. After explaining Russell’s critique of Wallace’s view, the paper considers a Wallace-inspired challenge based on the idea that questions of moral responsibility raise distinct issues of “fairness” that apply only to a narrow subset of the Strawsonian reactive (...) attitudes. The paper offers a defense of Russell’s view against this challenge. (shrink)
What is it to be morally responsible for something? Recent philosophical work reveals considerable disagreement on the question. Indeed, some theorists claim to distinguish several varieties of moral responsibility, with different conditions that must be satisfied if one is to bear responsibility of one or another of these kinds. -/- Debate on this point turns partly on disagreement about the kinds of responses made appropriate when one is blameworthy or praiseworthy. It is generally agreed that these include "reactive attitudes" such (...) as resentment and gratitude, but theorists disagree about the nature of these attitudes. They dispute the connections between moral responsibility, desert, and the justification of punishment as well. -/- Many theorists take it that, whatever the appropriate responses are, they are responses to an agent's "quality of will," but there is no consensus on what this comes to. Are the agent's beliefs about the moral status of her behavior what matter, or is it what she cares about, or what she judges important? -/- This volume presents twelve original essays from participants in these debates. The contributors include prominent established figures as well as influential younger philosophers. A substantive introduction by the editors surveys recent debates and situates the contributions within it. (shrink)
In his recent book, In Praise of Blame, George Sher argues (among other things) that a bad act can reflect negatively on a person if that act results in an appropriate way from that person's "character," and defends a novel "two-tiered" account of what it is to blame someone. In these brief comments, I raise some questions and doubts about each of these aspects of his rich and thought-provoking account.