In Against MoralResponsibility, Bruce Waller launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. Waller argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moralresponsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, he contends, leaves no room (...) for moralresponsibility. Waller argues that moralresponsibility in all its forms--including criminal justice, distributive justice, and all claims of just deserts--is fundamentally unfair and harmful and that its abolition will be liberating and beneficial. What we really want--natural human free will, moral judgments, meaningful human relationships, creative abilities--would survive and flourish without moralresponsibility. In the course of his argument, Waller examines the origins of the basic belief in moralresponsibility, proposes a naturalistic understanding of free will, offers a detailed argument against moralresponsibility and critiques arguments in favor of it, gives a general account of what a world without moralresponsibility would look like, and examines the social and psychological aspects of abolishing moralresponsibility. Waller not only mounts a vigorous, and philosophically rigorous, attack on the moralresponsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition. (shrink)
When many people are involved in an activity, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint who is morally responsible for what, a phenomenon known as the ‘problem of many hands.’ This term is increasingly used to describe problems with attributing individual responsibility in collective settings in such diverse areas as public administration, corporate management, law and regulation, technological development and innovation, healthcare, and finance. This volume provides an in-depth philosophical analysis of this problem, examining the notion of (...)moralresponsibility and distinguishing between different normative meanings of responsibility, both backward-looking and forward-looking. Drawing on the relevant philosophical literature, the authors develop a coherent conceptualization of the problem of many hands, taking into account the relationship, and possible tension, between individual and collective responsibility. This systematic inquiry into the problem of many hands pertains to discussions about moralresponsibility in a variety of applied settings. (shrink)
This book has three goals. The first is to demonstrate that the modern, distinctly Kantian, notion of moralresponsibility is incoherent by virtue of the way it fuses free will and blameworthiness. The second is to develop an alternative notion of moralresponsibility that separates causal responsibility from blameworthiness and views both as relative to the boundaries of our moral community. The third is to establish a framework for arguing openly about our moral (...)responsibility for particular kinds of harm. (shrink)
We might describe the philosophical issue of human freedom and moralresponsibility as an existential metaphysical problem. Problems of this kind are not just a matter of theoretical interest and curiosity: They address issues that we care about and that affect us. They are, more specifically, relevant to the significance and value that we attach to our lives and the way that we lead them. According to the orthodox view, there is a tidy connection between skepticism and pessimism. (...) Skepticism threatens a wide range of interests and concerns that themselves rest on the foundation of our self-conception as responsible moral agents. From this perspective, whereas skepticism licenses a degree of pessimism about our human predicament, the defeat of skepticism serves to vindicate optimism. In recent years this orthodox view of the relationship between skepticism and pessimism has been challenged. It has been argued, for example, that skepticism may be defended in much more optimistic terms. While we have reason to accept skepticism, we have no reason to draw any bleak or depressing consequences from this. Another way of severing the orthodox connection between skepticism and pessimism is to reject skepticism but deny that this will serve to secure or salvage any unqualified form of optimism. This chapter reviews and contrasts these various positions and approaches, beginning with an account of P. F. Strawson’s particularly influential statement of the relationship between the skeptical challenge and pessimism. (shrink)
Some are blameless for posing a threat to the live of another because they are not morally responsible for being a threat. Others are blameless in spite of their responsibility. On what has come to be known as the "moralresponsibility account" of liability to defensive killing, it is such responsibility, rather than blameworthiness, for threatening another that renders one liable to defensive killing. Moreover, one's lack of responsibility for being a threat grounds one's nonliability (...) to defensive killing. In "Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense" (1994), I offered an early formulation and defense of such an account. In Section I of this chapter, I renew my defense of the claim that it is impermissible to kill a passive nonresponsible threat in self-defense. In Section II, I renew my defense of the claim that it is permissible to kill a blameless but morally responsible threat in self-defense. (shrink)
Anne Conway’s commitment to the moralresponsibility of creatures, or created beings, is seemingly in tension with her unique metaphysics. Conway is committed to individual moralresponsibility. Conway insists that an innocent person ought not be punished for someone else’s sin. Interesting recent work highlights a unique aspect of Conway’s position that creatures are multiplicities: not only are creatures integrated into the larger whole of creation, but also their parts are mutually integrated into one another. The (...) latter, which I will call ‘ontological overlap,’ renders the boundaries between creatures unclear. However, creatures must be distinct enough from each other to provide a proper subject for individual moralresponsibility. This contribution suggests that Conway’s account of vital power can resolve an apparent tension between ontological overlap and individual moralresponsibility and, more broadly, that Conway has a relational metaphysics of moral subjecthood. (shrink)
Most people would agree that a small child, or a cognitively impaired adult, is less responsible for their actions, good or bad, than an unimpaired adult. But how do we explain that difference, and how far can anyone be praised or blamed for what they have done? In this fascinating introduction, Matthew Talbert explores some of the key questions shaping current debates about moralresponsibility, including: What is free will, and is it required for moralresponsibility? (...) Are we responsible for the unforeseen consequences of our actions? Is it fair to blame people for doing what they believe is right? And are psychopaths open to blame? As Talbert argues, we are morally responsible for our actions when they are related to us in particular ways: when our actions express our true selves, for example, or when we exercise certain kinds of control over them. It is because we bear these relationships to our actions that we are open to praise and blame. _Moral Responsibility_ will be an important resource for students and researchers in ethics, moral psychology, and philosophy of agency and of great interest to all those wishing to understand an important aspect of our moral practices. (shrink)
In this article, I aim to demonstrate that moralresponsibility theory produces, legitimates, and even magnifies the considerable social injustice that accrues to disabled people insofar as it implicitly and explicitly promotes a depoliticized ontology of disability that construes disability as a naturally disadvantageous personal characteristic or deleterious property of individuals rather than identifies it as an effect of power, an apparatus. In particular, I argue that the methodological tools of “analytic” philosophy that philosophers of moral (...) class='Hi'>responsibility theory employ to establish the philosophical domain in which they engage have distinctly detrimental effects on disabled people. (shrink)
Many philosophers endorse the idea that there can be no moralresponsibility without a moral community and thus hold that such responsibility is essentially interpersonal. In this paper, various interpretations of this idea are distinguished, and it is argued that no interpretation of it captures a significant truth. The popular view that moralresponsibility consists in answerability is discussed and dismissed. The even more popular view that such responsibility consists in susceptibility to the (...) reactive attitudes is also discussed, and it is argued that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
Whether firms can be said to be moral agents and to have the capacity for moralresponsibility has significant practical consequences. In most legal systems in the world, business firms are recognized as persons with the ability to own property, to maintain and defend lawsuits, and to self-organize governance structures. To recognize that these business persons can also act morally or immorally as organizations, however, would justify the imposition of other legal constraints and normative expectations on organizations. (...) In the criminal law, for example, the idea that an organized firm may itself have criminal culpability is accepted in many countries (such as the United States) but rejected in others (such as Germany). This book collects new contributions by leading business scholars in business ethics, philosophy, and related disciplines to extend our understanding of the moralresponsibility of firms. (shrink)
Philosophers generally assume that individuals with Tourette syndrome are not responsible for their Tourettic tics, and so not blameworthy for any harm their tics might cause. Yet this assumption is based largely on ignorance of the lived experience of Tourette syndrome. Individuals with Tourette syndrome often experience their tics as freely chosen and reason-responsive. Yet it still seems wrong to treat a Tourettic individual’s tic as on a moral par with others’ actions. In this paper, I examine the options (...) and argue that, if this is correct, then a surprising consequence follows: the standard, motivation-basedtheory of desire must be false. I go on to argue that, given what is known about the neurological basis of Tourette syndrome, this is a reasonable conclusion to draw. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s (1962) “Freedom and Resentment” has provoked a wide range of responses, both positive and negative, and an equally wide range of interpretations. In particular, beginning with Gary Watson, some have seen Strawson as suggesting a point about the “order of explanation” concerning moralresponsibility: it is not that it is appropriate to hold agents responsible because they are morally responsible, rather, it is ... well, something else. Such claims are often developed in different ways, but one (...) thing remains constant: they meant to be incompatible with libertarian theories of moralresponsibility. The overarching theme of this paper is that extant developments of “the reversal” face a dilemma: in order to make the proposals plausibly anti-libertarian, they must be made to be implausible on other grounds. I canvas different attempts to articulate a “Strawsonian reversal”, and argue that none is fit for the purposes for which it is intended. I conclude by suggesting a way of clarifying the intended thesis: an analogy with the concept of funniness. The result: proponents of the “reversal” need to accept the difficult result that if we blamed small children, they would be blameworthy, or instead explain how their view escapes this result, while still being a view on which our blaming practices “fix the facts” of moralresponsibility. (shrink)
I argue against two of the most influential contemporary theories of moralresponsibility: those of Harry Frankfurt and John Martin Fischer. Both propose conditions which are supposed to be sufficient for direct moralresponsibility for actions. (By the term direct moralresponsibility, I mean moralresponsibility which is not traced from an earlier action.) Frankfurt proposes a condition of 'identification'; Fischer, writing with Mark Ravizza, proposes conditions for 'guidance control'. I argue, using (...) counterexamples, that neither is sufficient for direct moralresponsibility. -/- My counterexample cases are based on recent research in psychology which reveals many surprising causes of our actions. Some of this research comes from the field of situationist social psychology; some from experiments which reveal the influence of automatic processes in our actions. Broadly, I call such causes 'subverting' when the agent would not identify with her action, if she knew all the causes of the action. When an action has subverting causes, the agent is not directly morally responsible for it, even though she may meet the conditions specified by Frankfurt and Fischer. -/- I also criticise the theories of Eddy Nahmias and John Doris, who have both engaged specifically with the threats posed to moralresponsibility by situationist research. Against Doris and Nahmias, I argue that their conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient for direct moralresponsibility. -/- My final objective is to argue that there are many everyday actions for which we mistakenly hold agents morally responsible. I review evidence that there are many everyday actions which have subverting causes. Many of those are actions for which we currently hold agents morally responsible. But I argue that, in many of those same actions, the agents are not in fact morally responsible – they bear neither direct nor traced moralresponsibility. (shrink)
This superbly crafted account of the notion of moralresponsibility and of its relations to freedom, control, ignorance, negligence, attempts, omissions, compulsion, mental disorders, virtues and vices, desert, and punishment fills that gap. The treatment of character and luck is particularly sophisticated and well-argued.
The principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), making the ability to do otherwise a necessary condition for moralresponsibility, is supposed by Harry Frankfurt, John Fischer, and others to succumb to a peculiar kind of counterexample. The paper reviews the main problems with the counterexample that have surfaced over the years, and shows how most can be addressed within the terms of the current debate. But one problem seems ineliminable: because Frankfurt''s example relies on a counterfactual intervener to preclude (...) alternatives to the person''s action, it is not possible for it to preclude all alternatives (intervention that is contingent upon a trigger cannot bring it about that the trigger never occurred). This makes it possible for the determined PAPist to maintain that some pre-intervention deviation is always available to ground moralresponsibility. In reply, the critic of PAP can examine all the candidate deviations and argue their irrelevance to moralresponsibility (a daunting prospect); or the critic can dispense with counterfactual intervention altogether. The paper pursues the second of these strategies, developing three examples of noncounterfactual intervention in which (i) the agent has no alternatives (and a fortiori no morally relevant alternatives), yet (ii) there is just as much reason to think that the agent is morally responsible as there was in Frankfurt''s original example. The new counterexamples do suffer from one liability, but this is insufficient in the end to repair PAP''s conceptual connection between moralresponsibility and alternate possibilities. (shrink)
The Buddha taught that there is no self. He also accepted a version of the doctrine of karmic rebirth, according to which good and bad actions accrue merit and demerit respectively and where this determines the nature of the agent’s next life and explains some of the beneficial or harmful occurrences in that life. But how is karmic rebirth possible if there are no selves? If there are no selves, it would seem there are no agents that could be held (...) morally responsible for ‘their’ actions. If actions are those happenings in the world performed by agents, it would seem there are no actions. And if there are no agents and no actions, then morality and the notion of karmic retribution would seem to lose application. Historical opponents argued that the Buddha's teaching of no self was tantamount to moral nihilism. The Buddha, and later Buddhist philosophers, firmly reject this charge. The relevant philosophical issues span a vast intellectual terrain and inspired centuries of philosophical reflection and debate. This article will contextualise and survey some of the historical and contemporary debates relevant to moral psychology and Buddhist ethics. They include whether the Buddha's teaching of no-self is consistent with the possibility of moralresponsibility; the role of retributivism in Buddhist thought; the possibility of a Buddhist account of free will; the scope and viability of recent attempts to naturalise karma to character virtues and vices, and whether and how right action is to be understood within a Buddhist framework. (shrink)
It seems intuitive to think that if you contribute more to an outcome, you should be more morally responsible for it. Some philosophers think this is correct. They accept the thesis that ceteris paribus one's degree of moralresponsibility for an outcome is proportionate to one's degree of causal contribution to that outcome. Yet, what the degree of causal contribution amounts to remains unclear in the literature. Hence, the underlying idea in this thesis remains equally unclear. In this (...) article, I will consider various plausible criteria for measuring degrees of causal contribution. After each of these criteria, I will show that this thesis entails implausible results. I will also show that there are other plausible theoretical options that can account for the kind of cases that motivate this thesis. I will conclude that we should reject this thesis. (shrink)
According to Michael Zimmerman, no interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal captures a significant truth. He raises several worries about the Strawsonian view that moralresponsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes and claims that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. He outlines three problems. First, the existence of self-reactive attitudes may be incompatible with the interpersonal nature (...) of moralresponsibility. Secondly, Zimmerman questions the significance of the interpersonal nature of moralresponsibility, according to the Strawsonian view. Thirdly, he argues that that view may be taken to suggest the wrong kind of priority relation between ‘P is morally responsible’ and ‘it is appropriate to adopt some reactive attitude toward P’. I discuss each of these problems in turn and conclude that Strawsonians can respond to all three problems raised by Zimmerman. The Strawsonian view supports a significant interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
Fundamental beliefs about free will and moralresponsibility are often thought to shape our ability to have healthy relationships with others and ourselves. Emotional reactions have also been shown to have an important and pervasive impact on judgments and behaviors. Recent research suggests that emotional reactions play a prominent role in judgments about free will, influencing judgments about determinism’s relation to free will and moralresponsibility. However, the extent to which affect influences these judgments is unclear. (...) We conducted a metaanalysis to estimate the impact of affect. Our meta-analysis indicates that beliefs in free will are largely robust to emotional reactions. (shrink)
Much debate has occurred as to whether or not moralresponsibility should be ascribed to corporate entities. The present study advances the theory that moralresponsibility is a self-imposed or attributable aspect of corporate operations which extends beyond the parameters established by law.In this context, the corporation must consciously endeavor to discharge its moralresponsibility to avoid, minimize, eliminate and compensate for the potential or actual harm which its operations cause. To achieve this objective, (...) consideration is given to the establishment of a Moral Audit Committee, an internal monitoring mechanism, with a proposed generic structure. The corporate Mission Statement and Code of Ethics play a vital role as well in building an institutional environment which supports this self-appraisal process. With this system in place, the ambit of a Moral Audit is then examined. This study concludes with a case analysis, which partly depicts the Moral Audit process. (shrink)
What conditions on a person’s knowledge must be satisfied in order for them to be morally responsible for something they have done? The first two decades of the twenty-first century saw a surge of interest in this question. Must an agent, for example, be aware that their conduct is all-things-considered … Continue reading Epistemic Conditions of MoralResponsibility →.
This paper argues that "moral luck", understood as a susceptibility of moral desert to lucky or unlucky outcomes, does not exist. The argument turns on the claim that epistemic inquiry is an indissoluble part of moralresponsibility, and that judgment on the moral decision making of others should and can adjust for this fact; test cases which aim to isolate moral dilemmas from epistemic consideration misrepresent our moral experience. If the phenomena believed by (...) some philosophers to exemplify the need to admit moral luck as part of their explanation are analysed in the light of this insight, the case for "moral luck" dissolves. (shrink)
Many prominent accounts of free will and moralresponsibility make use of the idea that agents can be responsive to reasons. Call such theories Reasons accounts. In what follows, I consider the tenability of Reasons accounts in light of situationist social psychology and, to a lesser extent, the automaticity literature. In the ﬁrst half of this chapter, I argue that Reasons accounts are genuinely threatened by contemporary psychology. In the second half of the paper I consider whether such (...) threats can be met, and at what cost. Ultimately, I argue that Reasons accounts can abandon some familiar assumptions, and that doing so permits us to build a more empirically plausible picture of our agency. (shrink)
I argue that we are sometimes morally responsible for having and using (or not using) our concepts, despite the fact that we generally do not choose to have them or have full or direct voluntary control over how we use them. I do so by extending an argument of Angela Smith's; the same features that she says make us morally responsible for some of our attitudes also make us morally responsible for some of our concepts. Specifically, like attitudes, concepts can (...) be (a) conceptually and rationally connected to our evaluative judgments, (b) in principle subject to rational revision (reasons‐responsive), and (c) the basis for actual and potential moral assessments of people that we have good reasons to endorse. Thus, we are open to moral appraisal on the basis of having and using (or not using) our concepts when they reflect our evaluative judgments, though even then it is not always appropriate to praise or blame us on that basis. (shrink)
Michael Zimmerman has recently argued against the twofold Strawsonian claim that there can be no moralresponsibility without a moral community and that, as a result, moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. I offered a number of objections to Zimmerman’s view, to which Zimmerman responded. In this article, I respond to Zimmerman’s responses to my criticisms.
This paper defends a minimal desert thesis, according to which someone who is blameworthy for something deserves to feel guilty, to the right extent, at the right time, because of her culpability. The sentiment or emotion of guilt includes a thought that one is blameworthy for something as well as an unpleasant affect. Feeling guilty is not a matter of inflicting suffering on oneself, and it need not involve any thought that one deserves to suffer. The desert of a feeling (...) of guilt is a kind of moral propriety of that response, and it is a matter of justice. If the minimal desert thesis is correct, then it is in some respect good that one who is blameworthy feel guilty—there is some justice in that state of affairs. But if retributivism concerns the justification of punishment, the minimal desert thesis is not retributivist. Its plausibility nevertheless raises doubt about whether, as some have argued, there are senses of moralresponsibility that are not desert-entailing. (shrink)
In the contemporary moralresponsibility debate, most theorists seem to be giving accounts of responsibility in the ‘desert-entailing sense’. Despite this agreement, little has been said about the notion of desert that is supposedly entailed. In this paper I propose an understanding of desert sufficient to help explain why the blameworthy and praiseworthy deserve blame and praise, respectively. I do so by drawing upon what might seem an unusual resource. I appeal to so-called Fitting-Attitude accounts of value (...) to help inform a conception of desert or merit, one that can be usefully applied to discussions of moralresponsibility. I argue that the view, which I call, Desert as Fittingness (DAF), merits additional attention. I do so by making two claims: First, that it does better than extant Fitting Attitude accounts of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness; second, that it has an initial plausibility with respect to informing a general account of desert. While these reasons are insufficient to show the view is true, they do make the case for taking the view seriously. (shrink)
Many theorists writing about moralresponsibility accept that voluntary control is necessary for responsibility. Call such theorists volitionists. Recently, volitionism has been called into question by theorists I call nonvolitionists. Yet neither volitionists nor nonvolitionists have carefully articulated a clear volitionist thesis, nor have they sufficiently explained the concept of voluntary control that somehow seems connected to volitionism. I argue that attempts to explain the volitionist thesis, voluntary control, and their relation are more problematic than have previously (...) been recognized. Instead, I recommend understanding volitionism in terms of intentional actions and omissions. This understanding has several benefits. It clarifies the debate and its parameters, it avoids the problematic notion of voluntary control while relying on the clearer notion of intentional action, and it highlights that the debate between volitionists and nonvolitionists essentially concerns the nature and scope of obligations. As a result, understanding volitionism in terms of intentional actions and omissions can help breathe new life into the volitionist debate. (shrink)
This article’s guiding question is about bullet biting: When should compatibilists about moralresponsibility bite the bullet in responding to stories used in arguments for incompatibilism about moralresponsibility? Featured stories are vignettes in which agents’ systems of values are radically reversed by means of brainwashing and the story behind the zygote argument. The malady known as “intuition deficit disorder” is also discussed.
Compatibilists about determinism and moralresponsibility disagree with one another about the bearing of agents’ histories on whether or not they are morally responsible for some of their actions. Some stories about manipulated agents prompt such disagreements. In this article, I call attention to some of the main features of my own “history-sensitive” compatibilist proposal about moralresponsibility, and I argue that arguments advanced by Michael McKenna and Manuel Vargas leave that proposal unscathed.
Various authors have argued that progress in the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric sciences might threaten the commonsense understanding of how the mind generates behavior, and, as a consequence, it might also threaten the commonsense ways of attributing moralresponsibility, if not the very notion of moralresponsibility. In the case of actions that result in undesirable outcomes, the commonsense conception—which is reflected in sophisticated ways in the legal conception—tells us that there are circumstances in which the agent (...) is entirely and fully responsible for the bad outcome and circumstances in which the agent is not at all responsible for the bad outcome. (shrink)
We are responsible not only for what we think and feel but for what others do and for what we would have done. This book expands and updates the original attributionist theory of responsibility and applies it to pressing contemporary issues such as collective responsibility, leaders’ responsibility for their followers’ acts, and addiction.
Frankfurt-style cases (FSCs) have famously served as counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP). The fine-grained version of the flicker defense has become one of the most popular responses to FSCs. Proponents of this defense argue that there is an alternative available to all agents in FSCs such that the cases do not show that PAP is false. Specifically, the agents could have done otherwise than decide on their own, and this available alternative is robust enough to ground (...) class='Hi'>moralresponsibility. In this paper, I argue that, when relying on definitions of ‘on one’s own’ within the literature on FSCs, a case can be constructed in which the agent could not have done otherwise than make a decision on his own. Insofar as this new case is successful, it will be able to avoid arguments about robustness while showing that moralresponsibility does not require alternative possibilities of the type argued for by proponents of the fine-grained version of the flicker defense. (shrink)
Typical incompatibilists about moralresponsibility and determinism contend that being basically morally responsible for a decision one makes requires that, if that decision has proximal causes, it is not deterministically caused by them. This article develops a problem for this contention that resembles what is sometimes called the problem of present (or cross-world) luck. However, the problem makes no reference to luck nor to contrastive explanation. This article also develops a solution.
Freedom, and in particular, the freedom of human beings, is a hot topic within the field of metaphysics. In this paper, instead of arguing for the truth of a particular position on freedom, I explore whether a particular position, compatibilism, might be consistent with the existence of moralresponsibility and retributive justice. To alleviate ambiguity, I construct a model by which the four primary positions on freedom might be clearly understood. I then distinguish between what I call ‘common-sense’ (...) views of moralresponsibility, and ‘complex’ views of moralresponsibility. I select a particular complex view, which I term the ‘virtue’ theory of moralresponsibility, offer some justification for the sensibility of such a theory, and demonstrate how the virtue theory is consistent with compatibilism. Finally, I propose that retributive justice is consistent with the virtue theory of moralresponsibility, and consequently, that retributive justice is consistent with compatibilism. (shrink)
Thought experiments have played a central role in philosophical methodology, largely as a means of elucidating the nature of our concepts and the implications of our theories.1 Particular attention is given to widely shared “folk” intuitions – the basic untutored intuitions that the layperson has about philosophical questions.2 The folk intuition is meant to underlie our core metaphysical concepts, and philosophical analysis is meant to explicate or sometimes refine these naïve concepts. Consistency with the deliverances of folk intuitions is a (...) sign that the philosopher is making contact with his object of interest. In order to explore folk concepts, people are often asked to provide their intuitions about a state of affairs in some alternate universe or possible world, one that differs in particular, precise ways from the way things are in the actual world. Here we provide evidence that people’s intuitions about moralresponsibility sometimes diverge across worlds even when the facts about these worlds are the same. Which world one considers actual affects at least some philosophical judgments, suggesting that it is not just possible worlds to which our intuitions are tied. We will present several possible explanations for the asymmetry we have identified, and we’ll consider some implications for philosophical intuition. (shrink)
Our aim in this paper is to raise a question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. Our question has rarely been raised previously. Among those who believe in the reality of human freedom, compatibilists have traditionally devoted their energies to providing an account that can avoid any commitment to the falsity of determinism while successfully accommodating a range of intuitive examples. Libertarians, in contrast, have aimed (...) to show that either physical indeterminacy or a certain kind of agent causation can find a place in the world for what they take to be genuine freedom. Few have considered whether moralresponsibility requires a commitment to conscious attitudes.2 Our question derives from a confluence of two sources. First, there is reason to think that conscious attitudes matter to theories of responsibility, either directly, as a result of the latter’s commitments, or indirectly, by virtue of the assumptions that they make about certain intuitive examples. Second, there is accumulating evidence suggesting that there aren’t any conscious mental states possessing the sorts of causal roles required of propositional attitudes. Since theorists of responsibility should in general be concerned to make their views compatible with plausible claims about the natural world, the implications of this data should be carefully considered. Our aim is therefore to motivate and begin exploring answers to the following conditional question: If it should turn out that there are no conscious attitudes, then what would be the implications of this fact (if any) for theories of responsibility? We propose that theorists who aren’t skeptics about moralresponsibility should examine their accounts, asking whether their theories (or the examples that motivate them) could survive the discovery that there are no conscious judgments, decisions, or evaluations. Since we take it that moral theorizing in general should operate with the weakest possible empirical assumptions about the natural world, such theorists should consider whether their accounts could be motivated in such a way as to be free of any commitment to the existence of conscious attitudes.. (shrink)
My dissertation is a systematic defense of the moral relevance of alternative possibilities. As such, it constitutes an attack on semi-compatibilism. ;To begin, then, I defend alternative possibilities against three related but independent lines of criticism. The most prominent of these is Harry Frankfurt's now famous counterexample strategy in which cases are constructed that purport to show that a person can, in fact, be responsible even when he cannot do otherwise. Another line of criticism is John Fischer's "flicker of (...) freedom" argument, which builds on Frankfurt-type argumentation by challenging the "robustness" of alternative possibilities. Finally, some recent critics of alternative possibilities have developed "reasons-responsiveness" accounts of moralresponsibility that seem further to invalidate the importance of the power to do otherwise. By extending traditional concerns and developing new objections, I argue that room remains for the possible relevance of an alternative possibilities condition on moralresponsibility. ;I try to make a positive case for the plausibility of relevance by offering reasons to think that the ability to do otherwise plays an important role in our moral life. Alternatives are important, I argue, because giving up a "freedom to do otherwise" condition would put us in an epistemic bind with respect to our responsibility. That is, the kind of confidence we ordinarily have in our own moralresponsibility would be unjustified if it turned out that we do not have alternatives. A second consideration in favor of the relevance of alternatives is distinctively moral. I explore and exploit the relationship between the ability to do otherwise and the putatively Kantian idea that "ought" implies "can," concluding that the semi-compatibilist must either reject both alternative possibilities and the Kantian thesis, or accept that people would not be blameworthy for their moral failures under determinism. Neither option is attractive. ;I conclude, then, that there is good reason to believe that alternative possibilities are necessary for moralresponsibility and that semi-compatibilism should be rejected. Our intuitions about the importance of being able to do otherwise can still factor into the traditional arguments to the conclusion that moralresponsibility is incompatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
The primary goal of this dissertation is to articulate and defend a robust commonsense libertarian theory of moralresponsibility; that moral agents are the causes, and owners, of their actions, and in virtue of this it is appropriate to hold them praiseworthy or blameworthy for what they do. Here, I critique and defend two commonsense principles concerning moralresponsibility - the control principle, and the principle of alternate possibilities. In recent years these principles have come (...) under attack from philosophers seeking to propose a theory of moralresponsibility consistent with a deterministic worldview. The existence of moral luck would mean that the control principle is false; I argue that moral luck is impossible. Harry Frankfurt famously presents a supposed counter-example to the principle of alternate possibilities; I argue Frankfurt's case turns on an equivocation between alternate possibilities and alternate outcomes. I contend that moralresponsibility requires an agent to have full control of her actions, to be the author of what she is praiseworthy or blameworthy for. This view requires indeterminism of a special kind, agent-causation, where something is an agentcause if and only if at a given time, it, and only it, determines its actions, and was not determined to act in this way by outside forces. Only agent-causes can be truly responsible for their actions because only the actions of agent-causes can be traced back to them and no further. And finally I argue we have good reason to believe we are such agent-causes. (shrink)