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Robert H. Wallace
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  1. Agentive Modals and Agentive Modality: A Cautionary Tale.Tim Kearl & Robert H. Wallace - forthcoming - American Philosophical Quarterly.
    In this paper, we consider recent attempts to metaphysically explain agentive modality in terms of conditionals. We suggest that the best recent accounts face counterexamples, and more worryingly, they take some agentive modality for granted. In particular, the ability to perform basic actions features as a primitive in these theories. While it is perfectly acceptable for a semantics of agentive modal claims to take some modality for granted in getting the extension of action claims correct, a metaphysical explanation of agentive (...)
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  2. A Dilemma for Reductive Compatibilism.Robert H. Wallace - 2023 - Erkenntnis 88 (7):2763–2785.
    A common compatibilist view says that we are free and morally responsible in virtue of the ability to respond aptly to reasons. Many hold a version of this view despite disagreement about whether free will requires the ability to do otherwise. The canonical version of this view is reductive. It reduces the pertinent ability to a set of modal properties that are more obviously compatible with determinism, like dispositions. I argue that this and any reductive view of abilities faces a (...)
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  3. Moral Diversity and Moral Responsibility.Brian Kogelmann & Robert H. Wallace - 2018 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (3):371-389.
    In large, impersonal moral orders many of us wish to maintain good will toward our fellow citizens only if we are reasonably sure they will maintain good will toward us. The mutual maintaining of good will, then, requires that we somehow communicate our intentions to one another. But how do we actually do this? The current paper argues that when we engage in moral responsibility practices—that is, when we express our reactive attitudes by blaming, praising, and resenting—we communicate a desire (...)
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  4. The Tension in Critical Compatibilism.Robert H. Wallace - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (1):321-332.
    (Part of a symposium on an OUP collection of Paul Russell's papers on free will and moral responsibility). Paul Russell’s The Limits of Free Will is more than the sum of its parts. Among other things, Limits offers readers a comprehensive look at Russell’s attack on the problematically idealized assumptions of the contemporary free will debate. This idealization, he argues, distorts the reality of our human predicament. Herein I pose a dilemma for Russell’s position, critical compatibilism. The dilemma illuminates the (...)
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  5. A Puzzle Concerning Gratitude and Accountability.Robert H. Wallace - 2022 - The Journal of Ethics 26 (3):455–480.
    P.F. Strawson’s account of moral responsibility in “Freedom and Resentment” has been widely influential. In both that paper and in the contemporary literature, much attention has been paid to Strawson’s account of blame in terms of reactive attitudes like resentment and indignation. The Strawsonian view of praise in terms of gratitude has received comparatively little attention. Some, however, have noticed something puzzling about gratitude and accountability. We typically understand accountability in terms of moral demands and expectations. Yet gratitude does not (...)
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  6. Responsibility and the limits of good and evil.Robert H. Wallace - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2705-2727.
    P.F. Strawson’s compatibilism has had considerable influence. However, as Watson has argued in “Responsibility and the Limits of Evil”, his view appears to have a disturbing consequence: extreme evil exempts an agent from moral responsibility. This is a reductio of the view. Moreover, in some cases our emotional reaction to an evildoer’s history clashes with our emotional expressions of blame. Anyone’s actions can be explained by his or her history, however, and thereby can conflict with our present blame. Additionally, we (...)
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  7. Can I Both Blame and Worship God?Robert H. Wallace - forthcoming - In Aaron Segal & Samuel Lebens (eds.), The Philosophy of Worship: Divine and Human Aspects. Cambridge University Press.
    In a well-known apocryphal story, Theresa of Avila falls off the donkey she was riding, straight into mud, and injures herself. In response, she seems to blame God for her fall. A playful if indignant back and forth ensues. But this is puzzling. Theresa should never think that God is blameworthy. Why? Apparently, one cannot blame what one worships. For to worship something is to show it a kind of reverence, respect, or adoration. To worship is, at least in part, (...)
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  8. Compatibilism as Non-Ideal Theory: A Manifesto.Robert H. Wallace - forthcoming - In David Shoemaker, Santiago Amaya & Manuel Vargas (eds.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Vol. 8. Oxford University Press.
    This paper articulates and responds to a challenge to contemporary compatibilist views of free will. Despite the popularity and appeal of compatibilist theories, many are left with lingering doubts about compatibilism. This paper explains this doubt in terms of the absurdity challenge: because a compatibilist accepts that they do not have causal access to all the actual sufficient causal sources of their own agency, the compatibilist can find their own agency absurd. By taking a cue from political philosophy, this paper (...)
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  9. Agency: Let's Mind What's Fundamental.Robert H. Wallace - 2023 - Philosophical Issues 33 (1):285–298.
    The standard event-causal theory of action says that an intentional action is caused in the right way by the right mental states. This view requires reductionism about agency. The causal role of the agent must be nothing over and above the causal contribution of the relevant mental event-causal processes. But commonsense finds this reductive solution to the “agent-mind problem”, the problem of explaining the relationship between agents and the mind, incredible. Where did the agent go? This paper suggests that this (...)
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  10. Compassion and Moral Responsibility in Avatar: The Last Airbender: “I was never angry; I was afraid that you had lost your way”.Robert H. Wallace - 2023 - In Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (eds.), Avatar: The Last Airbender and Philosophy. Wisdom from Aang to Zuko. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 197-205..
    This public philosophy piece examines moral responsibility and alternatives to angry blame as exemplified in the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender.
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  11. On Not Blaming and Victim Blaming.Joel Chow Ken Q. & Robert H. Wallace - 2020 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 39 (3):95-128.
    In this paper we show that being blameworthy for not blaming and being blameworthy for victim blaming are structurally similar. Each involve the two traditional contours of moral responsibility: a knowledge condition and a control condition. But interestingly, in these cases knowledge and control are importantly interrelated. Being in a relationship with another person affords us varying degrees of knowledge about them. This knowledge in turn affords agents in relationships varying degrees of influence over one another. Cases where an agent (...)
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  12. Review of Daniel Dennett and Gregg D. Caruso Just Deserts: Debating Free Will[REVIEW]Robert H. Wallace - 2023 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 20 (1-2):182-185.