Blame is usually discussed in the context of the free will problem, but recently moral philosophers have begun to examine it on its own terms. If, as many suppose, free will is to be understood as the control relevant to moral responsibility, and moral responsibility is to be understood in terms of whether blame is appropriate, then an independent inquiry into the nature and ethics of blame will be essential to solving the free will problem. In this article we first (...) survey and categorize recent accounts of the nature of blame – is it action, belief, emotion, desire, or something else? – and then we look at several proposed requirements on appropriate blame that look beyond the transgressor himself, considerations that will form part of a full account of the ethics of blame. (shrink)
One mark of interpersonal relationships is a tendency to blame. But what precise evaluations and responses constitute blame? Is it most centrally a judgment, or is it an emotion, or something else? Does blame express a demand, or embody a protest, or does it simply mark an impaired relationship? What accounts for its force or sting, and how similar is it to punishment?The essays in this volume explore answers to these questions about the nature of blame, but they also explore (...) the various norms that govern the propriety of blame. The traditional question is whether anyone ever deserves to be blamed, but the essays here provide a fresh perspective by focusing on blame from the blamer's perspective instead. Is our tendency to blame a vice, something we should work to replace with more humane ways of relating, or does it rather lie at the very heart of a commitment to morality? What can we legitimately expect of each other, and in general, what sort of attitude do would-be blamers need to have in order to have the standing to blame? Hypocritical or self-righteous blame seems objectionable, but why?The contributions to this volume aim to give us a fuller picture of the nature and norms of blame, and more generally of the promises and perils of membership in the human moral community. (shrink)
This is the first chapter to our edited collection of essays on the nature and ethics of blame. In this chapter we introduce the reader to contemporary discussions about blame and its relationship to other issues (e.g. free will and moral responsibility), and we situate the essays in this volume with respect to those discussions.
Blame is usually discussed in the context of the free will problem, but recently moral philosophers have begun to examine it on its own terms. If, as many suppose, free will is to be understood as the control relevant to moral responsibility, and moral responsibility is to be understood in terms of whether blame is appropriate, then an independent inquiry into the nature and ethics of blame will be essential to solving (and, perhaps, even fully understanding) the free will problem. (...) In this article we first survey and categorize recent accounts of the nature of blame – is it action, belief, emotion, desire, or something else? – and then we look at several proposed requirements on appropriate blame that look beyond the transgressor himself, considerations that will form part of a full account of the ethics of blame. (shrink)
No one has written more insightfully on the promises and perils of human agency than Gary Watson, who has spent a career thinking about issues such as moral responsibility, blame, free will, addiction, and psychopathy. This special edition of OSAR pays tribute to Watson's work by taking up and extending themes from his pioneering essays.
In this paper we discuss studies that show that most people do not find determinism to be incompatible with free will and moral responsibility if determinism is described in a way that does not suggest mechanistic reductionism. However, if determinism is described in a way that suggests reductionism, that leads people to interpret it as threatening to free will and responsibility. We discuss the implications of these results for the philosophical debates about free will, moral responsibility, and determinism.
It is widely held that if an agent is not morally responsible for her action – i.e., if she is not deserving of blame – then we have a (decisive) reason to refrain from blaming her. But though this is true, the fact that someone is deserving of blame isn’t clearly sufficient for there to be most allthings- considered reason for blaming that person. Other considerations bear on this question as well. Coates offers an account of some of these (...) considerations – particularly those that can serve as deontic constraints on blame. He also offers a reply to those skeptical of the “ethics of blame” on the grounds that such theorizing invariably appeals to the “wrong kind of reasons.”. (shrink)
Although Peter Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ was published over fifty years ago and has been widely discussed, its main argument is still notoriously difficult to pin down. The most common – but in my view, mistaken – interpretation of Strawson’s argument takes him to be providing a ‘relentlessly’ naturalistic framework for our responsibility practices. To rectify this mistake, I offer an alternative interpretation of Strawson’s argument. As I see it, rather than offering a relentlessly naturalistic framework for moral responsibility, Strawson (...) actually develops a transcendental argument, which grounds our moral responsibility practices in the practical perspective of social agents. However, the aims of this essay are not purely interpretative. Strawson’s essay continues to have important implications for a number of issues that arise in the contemporary debates that concern free will and moral responsibility. In particular, it puts significant pressure on moral responsibility sceptics like Derk Pereboom [Living Without Free Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001] who think that the truth of moral responsibility scepticism has no worrisome implications for our lives with others. (shrink)
Despite widespread agreement that ambivalence precludes agency “at its best,” in this paper I argue that ambivalence as such is no threat to one’s agency. In particular, against “unificationists” like Harry Frankfurt I argue that failing to be fully integrated as an agent, lacking purity of heart, or being less than wholehearted in one’s choices, tells us nothing about whether an agent’s will is properly functioning. Moreover, it will turn out that in many common circumstances, wholeheartedness with respect to some (...) motive or course of action is itself a defect in an agent’s will. (shrink)
In this paper I explore graded attributions of blameworthiness—that is, judgments of the general sort, "A is more blameworthy for x-ing than B is," or "A is less blameworthy for her character than B is." In so doing, I aim to provide a philosophical basis for the widespread, if not completely articulate, practice of altering the degree to which we hold others responsible on the basis of facts about them or facts about their environments. To vindicate this practice, I disambiguate (...) several related properties and identify the properties of being more blameworthy for an action with a complex set of relations between what an agent deserves for her action and how good it is from the point of view of desert that she receives that response. (shrink)
Following P. F. Strawson, a number of philosophers have argued that if hard incompatibilism is true, then its truth would undermine the justification or value of our relationships with other persons. In this paper, I offer a novel defense of this claim. In particular, I argue that if hard incompatibilism is true, we cannot make sense of: the possibility of promissory obligation, the significance of consent, or the pro tanto wrongness of paternalistic intervention. Because these practices and normative commitments are (...) central to our relationships as we currently conceive of them, it follows that hard incompatibilism has radically revisionary conclusions. (shrink)
The Ockhamist claims that our ability to do otherwise is not endangered by God’s foreknowledge because facts about God’s past beliefs regarding future contingents are soft facts about the past—i.e., temporally relational facts that depend in some sense on what happens in the future. But if our freedom, given God’s foreknowledge, requires altering some fact about the past that is clearly a hard fact, then Ockhamism fails even if facts about God’s past beliefs are soft. Recent opponents of Ockhamism, including (...) David Widerker and Peter van Inwagen, have argued along precisely these lines. Their arguments, if successful, would undermine Ockhamism while avoiding the controversy over the alleged softness of facts about God’s past beliefs. But these arguments do not succeed. The past facts they rely on must be clear and uncontroversial examples of hard facts about the past, and these facts must be such that an ability to refrain from the relevant future action implies an ability to alter the relevant hard fact. We demonstrate the flaw in these arguments by showing how they rely on past facts that do not satisfy these criteria. The Ockhamist may have troubles, but this type of argument is not one of them. (shrink)
In recent defenses of moral responsibility skepticism, which is the view that no human agents are morally responsible for their actions or character, a number of theorists have argued against Peter Strawson’s (and others’) claim that “the sort of love which two adults can sometimes be said to feel reciprocally, for each other” would be undermined if we were not morally responsible agents. Among them, Derk Pereboom (2001, 2009) and Tamler Sommers (2007, 2012) most forcefully argue against this conception of (...) love. However, in this paper, I plan to defend the claim that there is an essential connection between love and moral responsibility, a thesis I will call love internalism. To begin, I will specify the content and scope of love internalism, and consider ways in which other theorists have attempted to motivate it. I will then consider the various arguments that Pereboom and Sommers advance against love internalism. These arguments, it seems to me, offer us powerful reasons to reject several of the ways in which philosophers have tried to connect moral responsibility to love. Consequently, in light of these criticisms, I will further precisify the content of love internalism. And as we will see, love internalism (as I argue for it) is immune to Pereboom’s and Sommers’ criticisms. Moreover, when its content is sufficiently clarified, love internalism can serve as a plausible premise in an anti-skeptical argument. I thus conclude by arguing that this suitably reformulated statement of love internalism offers a significant challenge to moral responsibility skepticism of the sort Pereboom and Sommers endorse. (shrink)
Erin Kelly’s The Limits of Blame offers a series of powerful arguments against retributivist accounts of punishment. Among these, I first focus on Kelly’s Inscrutability Argument, which casts doubt on our epistemic justification for making judgments of moral desert. I then discuss Kelly’s defense of the Just Harm Reduction account of punishment. I consider how retributivists might respond to and learn from these arguments.
If philosophical moral reflection tends to promote moral behavior, one might think that professional ethicists would behave morally better than do socially comparable non-ethicists. We examined three types of courteous and discourteous behavior at American Philosophical Association conferences: talking audibly while the speaker is talking (versus remaining silent), allowing the door to slam shut while entering or exiting mid-session (versus attempting to close the door quietly), and leaving behind clutter at the end of a session (versus leaving one's seat tidy). (...) By these three measures, audiences in ethics sessions did not appear to behave any more courteously than did audiences in non-ethics sessions. However, audiences in environmental ethics sessions did appear to leave behind less trash. (shrink)
The most prominent recent attack on compatibilism about determinism and moral responsibility is the so-called manipulation argument, which presents an allegedly responsibility-undermining manipulation case and then points out that the relevant facts of that case are no different from the facts that obtain in an ordinary deterministic world. In a recent article in this journal, however, Matt King presents a dilemma for proponents of this argument, according to which the argument either leads to a dialectical stalemate or else is dialectically (...) infelicitous. In this article I clarify the structure of the manipulation argument and construct a response to King’s dilemma. (shrink)
Ordinarily, we take moral responsibility to come in degrees. Despite this commonplace, theories of moral responsibility have focused on the minimum threshold conditions under which agents are morally responsible. But this cannot account for our practices of holding agents to be more or less responsible. In this paper we remedy this omission. More specifically, we extend an account of reasons-responsiveness due to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza according to which an agent is morally responsible only if she is appropriately (...) receptive to and reactive to reasons for action. Building on this, we claim that the degree to which an agent is responsible will depend on the degree to which she is able to recognize and react to reasons. To analyze this, we appeal to relations of comparative similarity between possible worlds, arguing that the degree to which an agent is reasons-reactive depends on the nearest possible world in which given sufficient reason to do otherwise, she does so. Similarly, we argue that the degree to which an agent is reasons-receptive will depend on the intelligibility of her patterned recognition of reasons. By extending an account of reasons-responsiveness in these ways, we are able to rationalize our practice of judging people to be more or less responsible. (shrink)
Control-based models of moral responsibility typically employ a notion of "tracing," according to which moral responsibility requires an exercise of control either immediately prior to the behavior in question or at some suitable point prior to the behavior. Responsibility, on this view, requires tracing back to control. But various philosophers, including Manuel Vargas and Angela Smith, have presented cases in which the plausibility of tracing is challenged. In this paper we discuss the examples and we argue that they do not (...) in fact impugn an attractive and natural tracing component. Our discussion can function in part as a defense of a control-based account of moral responsibility, but also as simply a defense of tracing. (shrink)
Many object to libertarianism by arguing that it manages to solve one problem of luck only by falling prey to another . According to this objection, there is something freedom-undermining about the very circumstances that the libertarian thinks are required for freedom. However, it has proved difficult to articulate precisely what it is about these circumstances that is supposed to undermine freedom—the absence of certain sorts of explanations has perhaps been the most common complaint. In this paper, however, I argue (...) that recent work on the metaphysics of ontological dependence provides the resources for formulating the luck objection in its strongest form. (shrink)
Our aim in this paper is to put the concept of moral responsibility under a microscope. At the lowest level of magnification, it appears unified. But Gary Watson has taught us that if we zoom in, we will find that moral responsibility has two faces: attributability and accountability. Or, to describe the two faces in different terms, there is a difference between being responsible and holding responsible. It is one thing to talk about the connection the agent has with her (...) action; it is quite another to talk about the potential interaction the agent might have with her moral community. It turns out, though, that the faces of moral responsibility can themselves be viewed under an even higher level of magnification. If moral responsibility has two faces, then our aim in this paper is to examine their features. To do so reveals subtle distinctions in our concept of moral responsibility and its interaction with surrounding issues that, we argue, can help illuminate various debates in the literature. (shrink)
In this chapter I articulate the threat that time travel to the past allegedly poses to the free will of the time traveler, and I argue that on the traditional way of thinking about free will, the incompatibilist about time travel and free will wins the day. However, a residual worry about the incompatibilist view points the way toward a novel way of thinking about free will, one that I tentatively explore toward the end of the chapter.
A style of argument that calls into question our freedom (in the sense that involves freedom to do otherwise) has been around for millennia; it can be traced back to Origen. The argument-form makes use of the crucial idea that the past is over-and-done-with and thus fixed; we cannot now do anything about the distant past (or, for that matter, the recent past)—it is now too late. Peter van Inwagen has presented this argument (what he calls the Consequence Argument) in (...) perhaps its clearest and most forceful way, but debate over the argument has arguably reached a stalemate. -/- Recently, however, Wes Holliday has attempted to break this seeming stalemate by presenting a new argument for the Principle of the Fixity of the Past. Holliday’s argument is subtle and ingenious, and worthy of serious consideration, especially given the promise it holds for genuinely advancing this old debate. In what follows, however, we argue that despite its considerable ingenuity, Holliday’s argument fails to convince, and the stalemate appears to remain. (shrink)
Analytic philosophers have a tendency to forget that they are human beings, and one of the reasons that P. F. Strawson’s 1962 essay, “Freedom and Resentment”, has been so influential is that it promises to bring discussions of moral responsibility back down to earth. Strawson encouraged us to “keep before our minds...what it is actually like to be involved in ordinary interpersonal relationships”, which is, after all, the context in which questions about responsibility arise in the first place. In this (...) essay I explore what we can learn about ordinary interpersonal relationships from three works of literature – Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. My intention is to try to heed Strawson’s advice without imposing upon the data any particular theoretical agenda, and my hope is that the data collected will prove useful for future theorizing about responsibility. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that it is inappropriate for us to blame others if it is not reasonable for us to believe that they are morally responsible for their actions. The argument for this claim relies on two controversial claims: first, that assertion is governed by the epistemic norm of reasonable belief, and second, that the epistemic norm of implicatures is relevantly similar to the norm of assertion. I defend these claims, and I conclude by briefly suggesting how this (...) putative norm of blame can serve as the basis for general norms of interpersonal generosity. (shrink)
One of the most influential accounts of blame—the affective account—takes its cue from P.F. Strawson’s discussion of the reactive attitudes. To blame someone, on this account, is to target her with resentment, indignation, or (in the case of self-blame) guilt. Given the connection between these emotions and the demand for regard that is arguably central to morality, the affective account is quite plausible. Recently, however, George Sher has argued that the affective account of blame, as understood both by Strawson himself (...) and by contemporary Strawsonians, is inadequate because it cannot make sense of blameworthiness. In this paper I defend the affective account of blame against several of Sher’s arguments for this conclusion. In the process, I clarify the Strawsonian account of moral responsibility, and I discuss how the affective account of blame ought to be understood and articulated. (shrink)
Source incompatibilism is an increasingly popular version of incompatibilism about determinism and moral responsibility. However, many self-described source incompatibilists formulate the thesis differently, resulting in conceptual confusion that can obscure the relationship between source incompatibilism and other views in the neighborhood. In this paper I canvas various formulations of the thesis in the literature and argue in favor of one as the least likely to lead to conceptual confusion. It turns out that accepting my formulation has some surprising taxonomical consequences.
How do promissory obligations get created? Some have thought that the answer to this question must make reference to our social practice of promising. Recently, however, T.M. Scanlon has argued (in his book What We Owe to Each Other) for a pure ‘expectation view’ of promising, according to which promissory obligations arise as a result of our producing certain expectations in others. He formulates a principle of fidelity (Principle F) that tells us when one has gained an obligation due to (...) producing expectations in another, and he maintains that breaking one's promise is merely a special instance of violation against Principle F. Though initially compelling, Scanlon’s account is ultimately unsatisfactory because it is subject to a vicious circularity. In order to get out of the circle, we are forced to resort back to elements of a social practice view of promising. Thus we arrive at a hybrid view of promissory obligation, which weds parts of Scanlon’s expectation view with parts of a social practice view. After briefly examining and rejecting Scanlon’s pure expectation view, I consider the hybrid view of Niko Kolodny and R. Jay Wallace. I present a serious objection to the hybrid view as they formulate it and go on to construct a modified hybrid view. Finally, I defend my modified hybrid view from certain pressing objections. (shrink)
Although libertarians and compatibilists disagree about whether moral responsibility requires the falsity of determinism, they tend to agree that moral responsibility is at least compatible with the falsity of determinism. But there is a real worry about how that can be: after all, if my actions aren’t determined, then isn’t their occurrence just a matter of luck? In this paper, I offer a suggestion for how to understand and deal with this problem by appealing to the influential and powerful theory (...) of moral responsibility developed by John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza. (shrink)
Several theorists (Merricks, Westphal, and McCall) have recently claimed to offer a novel way to respond to the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge, rooted in Molina's insight that God's beliefs depend on what we do, rather than the other way around. In this paper we argue that these responses either beg the question, or else are dressed-up versions of Ockhamism.
What are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for an object's being a simple (an object without proper parts)? According to one prominent view, The Pointy View of Simples, an object is a simple if and only if the region occupied by that object contains exactly one point in space. According to another prominent view, MaxCon, an object is a simple if and only if it is maximally continuous. In this paper, I argue that both of these views are inconsistent (...) with the possibility of discrete space. I then go on to formulate analogues to these two views that are consistent with this possibility, and argue that if we are willing to grant the possibility of discrete space, we should endorse the analogue to The Pointy View of Simples over the analogue to MaxCon. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that defenders of Frankfurt-style counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities do not need to construct a metaphysically possible scenario in which an agent is morally responsible despite lacking the ability to do otherwise. Rather, there is a weaker (but equally legitimate) sense in which Frankfurt-style counterexamples can succeed. All that's needed is the claim that the ability to do otherwise is no part of what grounds moral responsibility, when the agent is indeed morally responsible.
In a fascinating recent article, Michael Otsuka seeks to bypass the debates about the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by presenting and defending a different, but related, principle, which he calls the “Principle of Avoidable Blame.” According to this principle, one is blameworthy for performing an act only if one could instead have behaved in an entirely blameless manner. Otsuka claims that although Frankfurt-cases do undermine the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, they do not undermine the Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this (...) brief paper, we offer a critical discussion of the core of Otsuka’s argument, especially the claim that his favored principle cannot be refuted by Frankfurt-cases. We do not believe that Otsuka has offered good reason to suppose that the Principle of Avoidable Blame—and the related incompatibilism—fares any better than the original Principle of Alternative Possibilities. (shrink)
Central to Fischer and Ravizza's theory of moral responsibility is the concept of guidance control, which involves two conditions: (1) moderate reasons-responsiveness, and (2) mechanism ownership. We raise a worry for Fischer and Ravizza's account of (1). If an agent acts contrary to reasons which he could not recognize, this should lead us to conclude that he is not morally responsible for his behaviour; but according to Fischer and Ravizza's account, he satisfies the conditions for guidance control and is therefore (...) morally responsible. We consider ways in which the account of guidance control might be mended. (shrink)
Hudson has formulated two local deterministic theses and argued that both are incompatible with freedom. We argue that Hudson has half the story right. Moreover, reflection on Hudson’s theses brings out an important point for debates about freedom generally: that instead of focusing on the notion of entailment, debates about freedom should focus on the notions of explanation and sourcehood. Hudson’s theses provide an excellent case study for why the latter notions ought to take precedence over the former in debates (...) about freedom. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Harry Frankfurt's work (both on volitional necessity and on Descartes) can help us to understand the argument that is at the heart of P. F. Strawson's classic article, "Freedom and Resentment". Strawson seems to say that it is both idle and irrelevant to ask whether the participant attitude (the framework within which we see others as morally responsible agents) is justified, but many have been puzzled by these remarks. In this paper I contend that (...) we can better understand Strawson's argument by taking him to be saying that the participant attitude is volitionally necessary. (shrink)