Is choice necessary for moralresponsibility? And does choice imply alternative possibilities of some significant sort? This paper will relate these questions to the argument initiated by Harry Frankfurt that alternative possibilities are not required for moralresponsibility, and to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza's extension of that argument in terms of guidance control in a causally determined world. I argue that attending to Frankfurt's core conceptual distinction between the circumstances that make an action unavoidable (...) and those that bring it about that the action is performed – a distinction emphasised in his recent restatement – provides a new route into an analysis of Frankfurt's argument by showing how it depends on a person's ‘decision to act’ involving the exercise of choice. The implicit reliance of Frankfurt's argument on this notion of choice, however, undermines his claim that the example of the counterfactual intervener strengthens the compatibilist case by providing a counter-example to the principle of alternative possibilities. I also argue that Frankfurt's reliance on the exercise of choice for moralresponsibility is also evident in the Fischer/Ravizza argument, and that a close analysis of both arguments shows that such exercise of choice is not available if causal determinism is true. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s work on moralresponsibility is well-known. However, an important implication of the landmark “Freedom and Resentment” has gone unnoticed. Specifically, a natural development of Strawson’s position is that we should understand being morally responsible as having externalistically construed pragmatic criteria, not individualistically construed psychological ones. This runs counter to the contemporary ways of studying moralresponsibility. I show the deficiencies of such contemporary work in relation to Strawson by critically examining the positions of John (...) Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, R. Jay Wallace, and Philip Pettit for problems due to individualistic assumptions. (shrink)
Much has been written recently about free will and moralresponsibility. In this paper I will focus on the relationship between free will, on the one hand, and various notions that fall under the rubric of “morality,” broadly construed, on the other: deliberation and practical reasoning, moralresponsibility, and ethical notions such as “ought,” “right,” “wrong,” “good,” and “bad.” I shall begin by laying out a natural understanding of freedom of the will. Next I develop some (...) challenges to the common-sense view that we have this sort of freedom. I will go on to explore the implications of this challenge for deliberation, moralresponsibility, and the central ethical notions. (shrink)
Recent work in experimental philosophy shows that folk intuitions about moralresponsibility are sensitive to a surprising variety of factors. Whether people take agents to be responsible for their actions in deterministic scenarios depends on whether the deterministic laws are couched in neurological or psychological terms (Nahmias et. al. 2007), on whether actions are described abstractly or concretely, and on how serious moral transgression they seem to represent (Nichols & Knobe 2007). Finally, people are more inclined to (...) hold an agent responsible for bringing about bad than for bringing about good side effects that the agent is indifferent about (Knobe 2003). Elsewhere, we have presented an analysis of the everyday concept of moralresponsibility that provides a unified explanation of paradigmatic cases of moralresponsibility, and accounts for the force of both typical excuses and the most influential skeptical arguments against moralresponsibility or for incompatibilism. In this article, we suggest that it also explains the divergent and apparently incoherent set of intuitions revealed by these new studies. If our hypothesis is correct, the surprising variety of judgments stems from a unified concept of moralresponsibility. -Knobe, J. (2003) Intentional Action and Side Effects in Ordinary Language. Analysis 63, pp.190–93. -Nahmias, E.; Coates, J.; Kvaran. T. (2007) Free will, moralresponsibility, and mechanism: experiments on folk intuitions. Midwest studies in Philosophy XXXI -Nichols, S.; Knobe, J. (2007) Moralresponsibility and determinism: the cognitive science of folk intuitions, Noûs 41:4, 663-685. (shrink)
Thomas Reid developed an important theory of freedom and moralresponsibility resting on the concept of agent-causation, by which he meant the power of a rational agent to cause or not cause a volition resulting in an action. He held that this power is limited in that occasions occur when one's emotions or other forces may preclude its exercise. John Martin Fischer has raised an objection – the not enough ‘Oomph’ objection – against any incompatibilist account of freedom (...) and moralresponsibility. In this essay I argue that Fischer's not enough ‘Oomph’ objection fails to provide any reasons for rejecting Reid's incompatibilist, agent-causation account of freedom and moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Some defenders of the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) have responded to the challenge of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP by arguing that there remains a flicker of freedom -- that is, an alternative possibility for action -- left to the agent in FSCs. I argue that the flicker of freedom strategy is unsuccessful. The strategy requires the supposition that doing an act-on-one''s-own is itself an action of sorts. I argue that either this supposition is confused and leads to counter-intuitive (...) results; or, if the supposition is acceptable, then it is possible to use it to construct a FSC in which there is no flicker of freedom at all. Either way, the flicker of freedom strategy is ineffective against FSCs. Since the flicker of freedom strategy is arguably the best defense of PAP, I conclude that FSCs are successful in showing that PAP is false. An agent can act with moralresponsibility without having alternative possibilities available to her. (shrink)
It is far too early to say what global impact the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric sciences will have on our intuitions about moralresponsibility. And it is far too early to say whether the notion of moralresponsibility will survive this impact (and if so, in what form). But it is certainly worth starting to think about the local impact that these sciences can or should have on some of our distinctions and criteria. It might be possible (...) to use some of the tools offered by these sciences in order to refine or revise some of the categories currently used, without – for the time being at least – worrying too much about the fate of the notion of moralresponsibility. This is an area where a piecemeal approach might be more productive: only after an evaluation of many distinct cases and situations it will be possible to say something general about the current notion of moralresponsibility. In this article, we will focus on a single clinical case: a young man who has been convicted for assault on a neighbour and whose sentence was affected by a pre-existing diagnosis of mental illness. We will use this case, and an analysis of the similarities and differences between this case and other possible cases, in order to raise some (local but important) issues about the implications that discoveries in neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry can have for the way moralresponsibility is attributed to agents and, more specifically, to agents with diagnoses of mental illnesses. (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)
Do laypeople think that moralresponsibility is compatible with determinism? Recently, philosophers and psychologists trying to answer this question have found contradictory results: while some experiments reveal people to have compatibilist intuitions, others suggest that people could in fact be incompatibilist. To account for this contradictory answers, Nichols and Knobe (2007) have advanced a ‘performance error model’ according to which people are genuine incompatibilist that are sometimes biased to give compatibilist answers by emotional reactions. To test for this (...) hypothesis, we investigated intuitions about determinism and moralresponsibility in patients suffering from behavioural frontotemporal dementia. Patients suffering from bvFTD have impoverished emotional reaction. Thus, the ‘performance error model’ should predict that bvFTD patients will give less compatibilist answers. However, we found that bvFTD patients give answers quite similar to subjects in control group and were mostly compatibilist. Thus, we conclude that the ‘performance error model’ should be abandoned in favour of other available model that best fit our data. (shrink)
Moralresponsibility invariantism is the view that there is a single set of conditions for being morally responsible for an action (or omission or consequence of an act or omission) that applies in all cases. I defend this view against some recent arguments by Joshua Knobe and John Doris.
Traditionally, incompatibilism has rested on two theses. First, the familiar Principle of Alternative Possibilities says that we cannot be morally responsible for what we do unless we could have done otherwise. Accepting this principle, incompatibilists have then argued that there is no room for such alternative possibilities in a deterministic world. Recently, however, a number of philosophers have argued that incompatibilism about moralresponsibility can be defended independently of these traditional theses (Ginet 2005: 604-8; McKenna 2001; Stump 1999: (...) 322-4, 2000 and 2002; van Inwagen 1983: 182-8; and Zagzebski 2000). Incompatibilists of this stripe are generally motivated by the concern that, if determinism .. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: 1. This paper argues that Epicurus had a notion of moralresponsibility based on the agent’s causal responsibility, as opposed to the agent’s ability to act or choose otherwise; that Epicurus considered it a necessary condition for praising or blaming an agent for an action, that it was the agent and not something else that brought the action about. Thus, the central question of moralresponsibility was whether the agent was the, or a, cause (...) of the action, or whether the agent was forced to act by something else. Actions could be attributed to agents because it is in their actions that the agents, qua moral beings, manifest themselves. 2. As a result, the question of moral development becomes all important. The paper collects and discusses the evidence for Epicurus views on moral development, i.e. (i) on how humans become moral beings and (ii) on how humans can become morally better. It becomes clear that Epicurus envisaged a complex web of hereditary and environmental factors to shape the moral aspect of a human being. 3. In line with Epicurus’ theory of moralresponsibility and moral development, Epicurus ethics does not have the function of developing or justifying a moral system that allows for the effective allocation of praise and blame. Rather, for him the function of ethics – and in fact of the whole of philosophy – is to give everyone a chance to morally improve. (shrink)
In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moralresponsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moralresponsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
Empirical evidence challenges many of the assumptions that underlie traditional philosophical and commonsense conceptions of human agency. It has been suggested that this evidence threatens also to undermine free will and moralresponsibility. In this paper, I will focus on the purported threat to moralresponsibility. The evidence challenges assumptions concerning the ability to exercise conscious control and to act for reasons. This raises an apparent challenge to moralresponsibility as these abilities appear to (...) be necessary for morally responsible agency. I will argue that this challenge collapses once the underlying conditions on moralresponsibility are specified in sufficient detail. I will argue, in other words, that the empirical evidence does not support a challenge to the assumption that we are, in general, morally responsible agents. In the final section, I will suggest that empirical research on human agency is nevertheless relevant to various questions about moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Frankfurt-type examples seem to show that agents can be morally responsible for their actions and omissions even if they could not have done otherwise. Fischer and Ravizza's influential account of moralresponsibility is largely based on such examples. I examine a problem with their account of responsibility in cases where we fail to act. The solution to this problem has a surprising and far reaching implication concerning the construction of successful Frankfurt-type examples. I argue that the role (...) of the counterfactual intervener in such examples can only be filled by a rational agent. (shrink)
The author argued elsewhere that a necessary condition that John Fischer and Mark Ravizza offer for moralresponsibility is too strong and that the sufficient conditions they offer are too weak. This article is a critical examination of their reply. Topics discussed include blameworthiness, irresistible desires, moralresponsibility, reactive attitudes, and reasons responsiveness.
Frankfurt-style examples (FSEs) cast doubt on the initially plausible claim that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for moralresponsibility. Following the lead of Peter van Inwagen and others, I argue that if we are careful in distinguishing events by causal origins, then we see that FSEs fail to show that one may be morally responsible for x, yet have no alternatives to x. I provide reasons for a fine-grained causal origins approach to events apart from the (...) context of moralresponsibility, and respond to the objection that moralresponsibility depends on abstract entities other than events. In response to John Martin Fischer and others, I argue that the alternatives available in recent FSEs are robust enough for moralresponsibility. If one thinks that the ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moralresponsibility, the FSEs give no reason to relinquish this belief. (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)
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)
In Part I, I reflect in some detail upon the free will problem and about the way its understanding has radically changed. First I outline the four questions that go into making the free will problem. Second, I consider four paradigmatic shifts that have occurred in our understanding of this problem. Then I go on to reflect upon this complex and multi-level situation. In Part II of this essay, I explore the major alternative positions, and defend my views, in new (...) ways. Instead of trying to spread over many issues, I present one new argument against compatibilism, which I call “The Trap”. This tries to explicate the main problem that I find with this position. Then I present an exposition of what we nevertheless need to follow, which I call “the Appreciation of Agency”. This supports a measure of compatibilism in a more modest form, and opposes hard determinism. On this basis, we can confront the philosophical and practical questions, as to what we ought to believe and how we ought to live, with respect to free will and moralresponsibility. This leads to what I call “The Bubble,” which addresses the way in which we deal with the tension between the absence of libertarian free will and The Trap, and the crucial need for the Appreciation of Agency. I conclude by reflecting upon three attributes of the free will problem that I consider central, but that have been neglected in the debate: complexity, risk and tragedy. (shrink)
This essay argues that while the notion of collective responsibiility is incoherent if it is taken to be an application of the Kantian model of moralresponsibility to groups, it is coherent -- and important -- if formulated in terms of the moral reactions that we can have to groups that cause harm in the world. I formulate collective responsibility as such and in doing so refocus attention from intentionality to the production of harm.
This introductory chapter discusses the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications--including the debate between Saul Smilansky's "illusionism," Thomas Nadelhoffer's "disillusionism," Shaun Nichols' "anti-revolution," and the "optimistic skepticism" of Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Tamler Sommers, and others.
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)
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.
This article explores the significance of agents’ histories for directly free actions and actions for which agents are directly morally responsible. Candidates for relevant compatibilist historical constraints discussed by Michael McKenna and Alfred Mele are assessed, as is the bearing of manipulation on free action and moralresponsibility.
This book explores the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications. Skepticism about free will and moralresponsibility has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, a significant number of philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists now either doubt or outright deny the existence of free will and/or moralresponsibility—and the list of prominent skeptics appears to grow by the day. Given the profound importance that the concepts of free will and (...) class='Hi'>moralresponsibility play in our lives—in understanding ourselves, society, and the law—it is important that we explore what is behind this new wave of skepticism. It is also important that we explore the potential consequences of skepticism for ourselves and society. This edited collection of new essays brings together an internationally recognized line-up of contributors, most of whom hold skeptical positions of some sort, to display and explore the leading arguments for free will skepticism and to debate their implications. It includes original contributions by Derk Pereboom, Galen Strawson, Ted Honderich, Bruce Waller, Neil Levy, Saul Smilansky, Thomas Nadelhoffer and Daniela Goya Tocchetto, Benjamin Vilhauer, Susan Blackmore, Manuel Vargas, Shaun Nichols, John-Dylan Haynes and Michael Pauen, Thomas Clark, Mark Hallett, Susan Pockett, and Maureen Sie. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive, systematic theory of moralresponsibility. The authors explore the conditions under which individuals are morally responsible for actions, omissions, consequences, and emotions. The leading idea in the book is that moralresponsibility is based on 'guidance control'. This control has two components: the mechanism that issues in the relevant behavior must be the agent's own mechanism, and it must be appropriately responsive to reasons. The book develops an account of both components. (...) The authors go on to offer a sustained defense of the thesis that moralresponsibility is compatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
The concept of luck has played an important role in debates concerning free will and moralresponsibility, yet participants in these debates have relied upon an intuitive notion of what luck is. Neil Levy develops an account of luck, which is then applied to the free will debate. He argues that the standard luck objection succeeds against common accounts of libertarian free will, but that it is possible to amend libertarian accounts so that they are no more vulnerable (...) to luck than is compatibilism. But compatibilist accounts of luck are themselves vulnerable to a powerful luck objection: historical compatibilisms cannot satisfactorily explain how agents can take responsibility for their constitutive luck; non-historical compatibilisms run into insurmountable difficulties with the epistemic condition on control over action. Levy argues that because epistemic conditions on control are so demanding that they are rarely satisfied, agents are not blameworthy for performing actions that they take to be best in a given situation. It follows that if there are any actions for which agents are responsible, they are akratic actions; but even these are unacceptably subject to luck. Levy goes on to discuss recent non-historical compatibilisms, and argues that they do not offer a viable alternative to control-based compatibilisms. He suggests that luck undermines our freedom and moralresponsibility no matter whether determinism is true or not. (shrink)
The notion of radical evil plays a more important role in Kant's moral theory than is typically recognized. In Religion Within the Limits of Mere Reason, radical evil is both an innate propensity and a morally imputable act – a paradoxical status that has prompted commentators to reject it as inconsistent with the rest of Kant's moral theory. In contrast, I argue that the notion of radical evil accounts for the beginning of moralresponsibility in Kant's (...) theory, since the act of attributing radical evil to one's freedom is an inauguration into the autonomous stance. (shrink)
Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of (...) surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: This paper serves two purposes: (i) it can be used by students as an introduction to chapters 1-5 of book iii of the NE; (ii) it suggests an answer to the unresolved question what overall objective this section of the NE has. The paper focuses primarily on Aristotle’s theory of what makes us responsible for our actions and character. After some preliminary observations about praise, blame and responsibility (Section 2), it sets out in detail how all the key (...) notions of NE iii 1-5 are interrelated (Sections 3-9). The setting-out of these interconnections makes it then possible to provide a comprehensive interpretation of the purpose of the passage. Its primary purpose is to explain how agents are responsible for their actions not just insofar as they are actions of this kind or that, but also insofar as they are noble or base: agents are responsible for their actions qua noble or base, because, typically via choice, their character dispositions are a causal factor of those actions (Section 10). The paper illustrates the different ways in which agents can be causes of their actions by means of Aristotle’s four basic types of agents (Section 11). A secondary purpose of NE iii 1-5 is to explain how agents can be held responsible for consequences of their actions (Section 12), in particular for their character dispositions insofar as these are noble or base, i.e. virtues or vices (Section 13). These two goals are not the only ones Aristotle pursues in the passage. But they are the ones Aristotle himself indicates in its first sentence and summarizes in its last paragraph; and the ones that give the passage a systematic unity. The paper also briefly consider the issues of freedom-to-do-otherwise, free choice and free-will in the contexts in which they occur (i.e. in the final paragraphs of Sections 6, 7, 12, 13). (shrink)
This paper examines the account of guidance control given in Fischer and Ravizza's book, Responsibility and Control, with the aim of revising it so as to make it a better account of what needs to be added to having alternatives open to yield a specification of the control condition for responsibility that will be acceptable to an adherent of the principle that one is responsible for something only if one could have avoided it.
In this work, Jamie Mayerfeld undertakes a careful inquiry into the meaning and moral significance of suffering. Understanding suffering in hedonistic terms as an affliction of feeling, he claims that it is an objective psychological condition, amenable to measurement and interpersonal comparison, although its accurate assessment is never easy. Mayerfeld goes on to examine the content of the duty to prevent suffering and the weight it has relative to other moral considerations. He argues that the prevention of suffering (...) is morally more important than the promotion of happiness, and that the duty to relieve suffering is much stronger than most of us acknowledge. (shrink)
This is a selection of essays on moralresponsibility that represent the major components of John Martin Fischer's overall approach to freedom of the will and moralresponsibility. The collection exhibits the overall structure of Fischer's view and shows how the various elements fit together to form a comprehensive framework for analyzing free will and moralresponsibility. The topics include deliberation and practical reasoning, freedom of the will, freedom of action, various notions of control, (...) and moral accountability. The essays seek to provide a foundation for our practices of holding each other (and ourselves) morally and legally accountable for our behavior. A crucial move is the distinction between two kinds of control. According to Fischer, "regulative control" involves freedom to choose and do otherwise ("alternative possibilities"), whereas "guidance control" does not. Fischer contends that guidance control is all the freedom we need to be morally responsible agents. Further, he contends that such control is fully compatible with causal determinism. Additionally, Fischer argues that we do not need genuine access to alternative possibilities in order for there to be a legitimate point to practical reasoning. Fischer's overall framework contains an argument for the contention that guidance control, and not regulative control, is associated with moralresponsibility, a sketch of a comprehensive theory of moralresponsibility (that ties together responsibility for actions, omissions, consequences, and character), and an account of the value of moralresponsibility. On this account, the value of exhibiting freedom (of the relevant sort) and thus being morally responsible for one's behavior is a species of the value of artistic self-expression. (shrink)
Introduction: The metaphysics of responsibility and philosophy of education -- Moralresponsibility, authenticity, and the problem of manipulation -- A novel perspective on the problem of authenticity -- Forward-looking authenticity in the internalism/externalism debate -- Authentic education, indoctrination, and moralresponsibility -- Moralresponsibility, hard incompatibilism, and interpersonal relationships -- On the significance of moralresponsibility and love -- Love, commendability, and moral obligation -- Love, determinism, and normative education.
We are strongly inclined to believe in moralresponsibility, that some human agents truly deserve moral praise or blame for some of their actions. However, recent philosophical discussion has put this natural belief in the reality of moralresponsibility under suspicion. There are important reasons to think that moralresponsibility is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism, possibly rendering moralresponsibility an impossibility. This book lays out the major arguments for skepticism (...) about moralresponsibility and subjects them to sustained and penetrating critical analysis. MoralResponsibility lays out the intricate dialectic involved in these issues in a helpful and accessible way. The book goes on to suggest a way in which skepticism can be avoided, arguing that an excessive pre-eminence given to the will might lie at the root of skepticism of moralresponsibility. Carlos Moya offers an alternative to skepticism, showing how a cognitive approach to moralresponsibility which stresses the importance of belief would rescue our natural and centrally important faith in the reality of moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Roboethics is a recently developed field of applied ethics which deals with the ethical aspects of technologies such as robots, ambient intelligence, direct neural interfaces and invasive nano-devices and intelligent soft bots. In this article we look specifically at the issue of (moral) responsibility in artificial intelligent systems. We argue for a pragmatic approach, where responsibility is seen as a social regulatory mechanism. We claim that having a system which takes care of certain tasks intelligently, learning from (...) experience and making autonomous decisions gives us reasons to talk about a system (an artifact) as being “responsible” for a task. No doubt, technology is morally significant for humans, so the “responsibility for a task” with moral consequences could be seen as moralresponsibility. Intelligent systems can be seen as parts of socio-technological systems with distributed responsibilities, where responsible (moral) agency is a matter of degree. Knowing that all possible abnormal conditions of a system operation can never be predicted, and no system can ever be tested for all possible situations of its use, the responsibility of a producer is to assure proper functioning of a system under reasonably foreseeable circumstances. Additional safety measures must however be in place in order to mitigate the consequences of an accident. The socio-technological system aimed at assuring a beneficial deployment of intelligent systems has several functional responsibility feedback loops which must function properly: the awareness and procedures for handling of risks and responsibilities on the side of designers, producers, implementers and maintenance personnel as well as the understanding of society at large of the values and dangers of intelligent technology. The basic precondition for developing of this socio-technological control system is education of engineers in ethics and keeping alive the democratic debate on the preferences about future society. (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)
This is a reissue, with new introduction, of Susan Sauvé Meyer's 1993 book, in which she presents a comprehensive examination of Aristotle's accounts of voluntariness in the Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics. She makes the case that these constitute a theory of moralresponsibility--albeit one with important differences from modern theories. Highlights of the discussion include a reconstruction of the dialectical argument in the Eudemian Ethics II 6-9, and a demonstration that the definitions of 'voluntary' and 'involuntary' in Nicomachean (...) Ethics III 1 are the culmination of that argument. By identifying the paradigms of voluntariness and involuntariness that Aristotle begins with and the opponents (most notably Plato) he addresses, Meyer explains notoriously puzzling features of the Nicomachean account--such as Aristotle's requirement that involuntary agents experience pain or regret. Other familiar features of Aristotle's account are cast in a new light. That we are responsible for the characters we develop turns out not to be a necessary condition of responsible agency. That voluntary action has its "origin" in the agent and that our actions are "up to us to do and not to do"--often interpreted as implying a libertarian conception of agency--turn out to be perfectly compatible with causal determinism, a point Meyer makes by locating these locutions in the context of Aristotle's general understanding of causality. While Aristotle does not himself face or address worries that determinism is incompatible with responsibility, his causal repertoire provides the resources for a powerful response to incompatibilist arguments. On this and other fronts Aristotle's is a view to be taken seriously by theorists of moralresponsibility. (shrink)
In three experiments we studied lay observers’ attributions of responsibility for an antisocial act (homicide). We systematically varied both the degree to which the action was coerced by external circumstances and the degree to which the actor endorsed and accepted ownership of the act, a psychological state that philosophers have termed ‘identiﬁcation’. Our ﬁndings with respect to identiﬁcation were highly consistent. The more an actor was identiﬁed with an action, the more likely observers were to assign responsibility to (...) the actor, even when the action was performed under constraints so powerful that no other behavioral option was available. Our ﬁndings indicate that social cognition involving assignment of responsibility for an action is a more complex process than previous research has indicated. It would appear that laypersons’ judgments of moralresponsibility may, in some circumstances, accord with philosophical views in which freedom and determinism are regarded to be compatible. (shrink)
Almost everyone allows that conditions can obtain that exempt agents from moralresponsibility—that someone is not a morally responsible agent if certain conditions obtain. In his seminal Freedom and Resentment, Peter Strawson denies that the truth of determinism globally exempts agents from moralresponsibility. As has been noted elsewhere, Strawson appears committed to the surprising thesis that being an evil person is an exempting condition. Less often noted is the fact that various Strawsonians—philosophers sympathetic with Strawson’s (...) account of moralresponsibility—at least appear to have difficulty incorporating evil persons into their accounts of moralresponsibility. In what follows, I argue that Strawson is not committed to supposing that being evil is an exempting condition—at least, that he can allow that evil persons are morally responsible agents. (shrink)
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.
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)
Should we conceive of corporations as entities to which moralresponsibility can be attributed? This contribution presents what we will call a political account of corporate moralresponsibility. We argue that in modern, liberal democratic societies, there is an underlying political need to attribute greater levels of moralresponsibility to corporations. Corporate moralresponsibility is essential to the maintenance of social coordination that both advances social welfare and protects citizens’ moral entitlements. (...) This political account posits a special capacity of self-governance that corporations can intelligibly be said to possess. Corporations can be said to be administrators of duty in that they can voluntarily incorporate moral principles into their decision-making processes about how to conduct business. This account supplements and partly transforms earlier pragmatic accounts of corporate moralresponsibility by disentangling responsibility from its conventional linkages with accountability, blame and punishment. It thereby represents a distinctive way to defend corporate moralresponsibility and shows how Kantian thinking can be helpful in disentangling the problems surrounding the concept. (shrink)
This paper argues that the ?traditional conception of moralresponsibility? authorizes and supports denials of white complicity. First, what is meant by the ?traditional conception of moralresponsibility? is delineated and the enabling and disenabling characteristics of this view are highlighted. Then, three seemingly good, antiracist discourses that white students often engage in are discussed ? the discourse of colour?blindness, the discourse of meritocracy and the discourse of individual choice ? and analysed to show how they (...) are all grounded in the ?traditional conception of moralresponsibility?. The limitations of these discourses are drawn and how these discourses work to conceal white complicity is established. Finally, implications for social justice education are discussed. (shrink)
Should we conceive of corporations as entities to which moralresponsibility can be attributed? This contribution presents what we will call a political account of corporate moralresponsibility. We argue that in modern, liberal democratic societies, there is an underlying political need to attribute greater levels of moralresponsibility to corporations. Corporate moralresponsibility is essential to the maintenance of social coordination that both advances social welfare and protects citizens’ moral entitlements. (...) This political account posits a special capacity of self-governance that corporations can intelligibly be said to possess. Corporations can be said to be “administrators of duty” in that they can voluntarily incorporate moral principles into their decision-making processes about how to conduct business. This account supplements and partly transforms earlier pragmatic accounts of corporate moralresponsibility by disentangling responsibility from its conventional linkages with accountability, blame and punishment. It thereby represents a distinctive way to defend corporate moralresponsibility and shows how Kantian thinking can be helpful in disentangling the problems surrounding the concept. (shrink)
This paper provides a discussion and defense of a recent formulation of the idea that moralresponsibility for actions depends on the capacity to respond to reasons. This formulation appears in several publications by John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, where the authors argue that moralresponsibility involves a kind of control over one’s actions which they call “guidance control.” This kind of control does not require an agent’s ability to do something different from what he (...) actually does, but instead requires only that the actual process leading to the action be responsive in some suitable way to the reasons that the agent has for acting. After summarizing this view, I offer the following two innovations to the authors’ view: I argue that the level of control required for moralresponsibility (which I call “regular reasons-responsiveness”) is much stronger than what the author’s view allows for; and 2) I give a common-sense account of the kinds of motivational mechanism relevant to moralresponsibility. Given these innovations, I show that this kind of view allows us to easily answer some counterexamples that appear in the current literature on moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Abstract The relationship of intention to moralresponsibility in contemporary notions of racism is explored. It is argued that, although the moral import of efforts to reveal and recognise dominance in western society is to be lauded, the peripheral role attributed to intentions in ascriptions of racism can be counterproductive to the aim of helping dominant group members acknowledge their embeddedness in a culture which oppresses others.
This book considers two different approaches to moral luck--the Aristotelian vulnerability to factors outside the agent's control and the Kantian ambition to make morality immune to luck--and concludes that both approaches have more in common than previously thought. At the same time, it also considers recent developments in the field of virtue ethics and neo-kantianism.
In this article we survey six recent developments in the philosophical literature on free will and moralresponsibility: (1) Harry Frankfurt's argument that moralresponsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise; (2) the heightened focus upon the source of free actions; (3) the debate over whether moralresponsibility is an essentially historical concept; (4) recent compatibilist attempts to resurrect the thesis that moralresponsibility requires the freedom to do otherwise; (5) (...) the role of the control condition in free will and moralresponsibility, and finally (6) the debate centering on luck. (shrink)
In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both parties had attributed (...) to it -- since moralresponsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moralresponsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this. (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)
The paper begins with the plausible view that criminal responsibility should track moralresponsibility, and explains its plausibility. A necessary distinction is then drawn between liability and answerability as two dimensions of responsibility, and is shown to underpin the distinction in criminal law between offences and defences. This enables us to distinguish strict liability from strict answerability, and to see that whilst strict criminal liability seems inconsistent with the principle that criminal responsibility should track (...) class='Hi'>moralresponsibility, strict criminal answerability is not. We must ask, therefore, whether, when and why strict criminal responsibility is unacceptable. (shrink)
Susan Wolf objects to the Real Self View (RSV) of moralresponsibility that it is insufficient, that even if one’s actions are expressions of one’s deepest or “real” self, one might still not be morally responsible for one’s actions. As a counterexample to the RSV, Wolf offers the case of JoJo, the son of a dictator, who endorses his father’s (evil) values, but who is insane and is thus not responsible for his actions. Wolf’s data for this conclusion (...) derives from what she takes to be our “pretheoretic intuitions” about JoJo. As it turns out, though, experimental data on actual pretheoretic intuitions does not seem to support Wolf’s claim. In this paper, we present such data and argue that, at least with respect to this particular objection, the RSV can survive Wolf’s attack intact. (shrink)
Harry Frankfurt has famously criticized the principle of alternate possibilities—the principle that an agent is morally responsible for performing some action only if able to have done otherwise than to perform it—on the grounds that it is possible for an agent to be morally responsible for performing an action that is inevitable for the agent when the reasons for which the agent lacks alternate possibilities are not the reasons for which the agent has acted. I argue that an incompatibilist about (...) determinism and moralresponsibility can safely ignore so-called “Frakfurt-style cases” and continue to argue for incompatibilism on the grounds that determinism rules out the ability to do otherwise. My argument relies on a simple—indeed, simplistic—weakening of the principle of alternate possibilities that is explicitly designed to be immune to Frankfurt-style criticism. This alternative to the principle of alternate possibilities is so simplistic that it will no doubt strike many readers as philosophically fallow. I argue that it is not. I argue that the addition of one highly plausible premise allows for the modified principle to be employed in an argument for incompatibilism that begins with the observation that determinism rules out the ability to do otherwise. On the merits of this argument I conclude that deterministic moralresponsibility is impossible and that Frankfurt’s criticism of the principle of alternate possibilities—even if successful to that end—may be safely ignored. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss studies that show that most people do not find determinism to be incompatible with free will and moralresponsibility 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 (...) class='Hi'>responsibility, and determinism. (shrink)
This article distinguishes among and examines three different kinds of argument for the thesis that moralresponsibility and free action are each incompatible with the truth of determinism: straight manipulation arguments; manipulation arguments to the best explanation; and original-design arguments. Structural and methodological matters are the primary focus.
What role, if any, does consciousness of our reasons for acting play in settling whether we may justifiably be held responsible for our actions? Most philosophers, and ordinary people, seem to assume that consciousness of this kind is essential for moralresponsibility: if an agent fails to be conscious of their reasons for acting (and they are not responsible for that fact), they ought to be excused responsibility. Recently, however, this assumption has been rejected by researchers in (...) a variety of disciplines, from philosophers (for example Arpaly 2002; Sher 2009; Suhler & Churchland 2009) to cognitive scientists (Wegner 2002). In this paper, I want to make a start on defending the assumption. I will not address the arguments of these researchers directly. Rather, I will set out a case for thinking that consciousness of our reasons for acting is morally significant, in a manner that at least typically entails a difference in whether agents are morally responsible for their actions. (shrink)
Retributive emotions and behavior are thought to be adaptive for their role in improving social coordination. However, since retaliation is generally not in the short-term interests of the individual, rational self-interest erodes the motivational link between retributive emotions and the accompanying adaptive behavior. I argue that two different sets of norms have emerged to reinforce this link: (1) norms about honor and (2) norms about moralresponsibility and desert. I observe that the primary difference between these types of (...) retribution motivators lies in where the normative focus is placed after an offense. In the first form of retribution, the normative focus is on the offended party. In the second, it is on the offender. Next, I show how each class of norms is well tailored to the particular features of the environment in which these forms of retributive behavior emerge. Finally, I consider some philosophical implications of these observations. I suggest that my account, if correct, would pose tough challenges for contemporary philosophical theories of moralresponsibility and punishment. (shrink)
When Hegel first addresses moralresponsibility in the Philosophy of Right, he presupposes that agents are only responsible for what they intended to do, but appears to offer little, if any, justification for this assumption. In this essay, I claim that the first part of the Philosophy of Right, “Abstract Right”, contains an implicit argument that legal or external responsibility (blame for what we have done) is conceptually dependent on moralresponsibility proper (blame for what (...) we have intended). This overlooked argument satisfies the first half of a thesis Hegel applies to action in the Encyclopaedia Logic, namely, that the outer must be inner, and thus provides a necessary complement for his more explicit treatment of the second half of that thesis, that the inner must be outer. The claim that agents are only responsible for what they intended to do might appear, at first, to risk conflating legal and moralresponsibility and to lack the necessary means to deal with the phenomenon of moral luck, but I argue that if it is properly situated within the whole of Hegel's philosophy of action it can be saved from both of these consequences and so take its place as an essential component of Hegel's full theory of moralresponsibility. (shrink)
This is the introduction to a volume of new essays in the metaphysics of moralresponsibility by John Martin Fischer, Carl Ginet, Ishtiyaque Haji, Alfred R. Mele, Derk Pereboom, Paul Russell, and Peter van Inwagen. I provide some background for the essays, cover the main debates in the metaphysics of moralresponsibility, and emphasize some of the authors' contributions to this area of philosophy.
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)
Our moralresponsibility for our actions seems to depend on our possession of a power to determine for ourselves what actions we perform - a power of self-determination. What kind of power is this? The paper discusses what power in general might involve, what differing kinds of power there might be, and the nature of self-determination in particular. A central question is whether this power on which our moralresponsibility depends is by its nature a two-way (...) power, involving a power over alternatives or a freedom to do otherwise. Criticism is made of various attempts to understand self-determination in one-way terms, whether as a capacity for rationality (McDowell) or as a form of voluntariness (Frankfurt). It is argued in particular that Frankfurt's arguments to show that moralresponsibility does not depend on a freedom to do otherwise beg the question against his opponents. (shrink)
[Publisher's description:] When can we be morally responsible for our behavior? Is it fair to blame people for actions that are determined by heredity and environment? Can we be responsible for the actions of relatives or members of our community? In this provocative book, Tamler Sommers concludes that there are no objectively correct answers to these questions. Drawing on research in anthropology, psychology, and a host of other disciplines, Sommers argues that cross-cultural variation raises serious problems for theories that propose (...) universally applicable conditions for moralresponsibility. He then develops a new way of thinking about responsibility that takes cultural diversity into account. -/- Relative Justice is a novel and accessible contribution to the ancient debate over free will and moralresponsibility. Sommers provides a thorough examination of the methodology employed by contemporary philosophers in the debate and a challenge to Western assumptions about individual autonomy and its connection to moral desert. (shrink)
The "Smart" of my title is J. J. C. Smart. He has proposed an austere version of compatibilism.1 The generic doctrine of compatibilism holds that the claim--that all human choices are events in the physical world that are caused either deterministically or indeterministically--is compatible with moralresponsibility and desert.2 According to Smart’s version, one is morally responsible for a choice one makes just in case praising or blaming, rewarding or punishing one for making the choice would produce good (...) consequences by altering the future behavior of oneself or others. Compatibilism of this ilk does not include the assertion that free will and the causation of choices are compatible, and indeed Smart repudiates the libertarian idea of free will on the ground that it is logically incoherent and does not consider whether some watered-down notion of free will might make sense. If compatibilism plus determinism equals soft determinism, Smart's doctrine merits the label "hard soft determinism.". (shrink)
When software is written and then utilized in complex computer systems, problems often occur. Sometimes these problems cause a system to malfunction, and in some instances such malfunctions cause harm. Should any of the persons involved in creating the software be blamed and punished when a computer system failure leads to persons being harmed? In order to decide whether such blame and punishment are appropriate, we need to first consider if the people are “morally responsible”. Should any of the people (...) involved in creating the software be held morally responsible, as individuals, for the harm caused by a computer system failure?This article provides one view of moralresponsibility and then discusses some barriers to holding people morally responsible. Next, it provides information about the Therac-25, a computer-controlled medical linear accelerator, and its computer systems failures that led to deaths and injuries. Finally it investigates whether two key people involved in the Therac-25 case could reasonably be considered to have some degree of moralresponsibility for the deaths and injuries. The conclusions about whether or not these people were morally responsible necessarily rest upon a certain amount of speculation about what they knew and what they did. These limitations, however, should not cause us to conclude that discussions of moralresponsibility are fruitless. In some cases, determinations of moralresponsibility may be made and in others the investigation is still worthwhile, as the article demonstrates. (shrink)
In “Control, Responsibility, and Moral Assessment” Angela Smith defends her nonvoluntarist theory of moralresponsibility against the charge that any such view is shallow because it cannot capture the depth of judgments of responsibility. Only voluntarist positions can do this since only voluntarist positions allow for control. I argue that Smith is able to deflect the voluntarists’ criticism, but only with further resources. As a voluntarist, I also concede that Smith’s thesis has force, and I (...) close with a compromise position, one that allows for direct moralresponsibility for the nonvoluntary, but also incorporates a reasonable control condition. (shrink)
Recently T. M. Scanlon and others have advanced an ostensibly comprehensive theory of moralresponsibility—a theory of both being responsible and being held responsible—that best accounts for our moral practices. I argue that both aspects of the Scanlonian theory fail this test. A truly comprehensive theory must incorporate and explain three distinct conceptions of responsibility—attributability, answerability, and accountability—and the Scanlonian view conflates the first two and ignores the importance of the third. To illustrate what a truly (...) comprehensive theory might look like, I investigate what it would say about the difficult case of the psychopath. (shrink)
Manipulation arguments for incompatibilism all build upon some example or other in which an agent is covertly manipulated into acquiring a psychic structure on the basis of which she performs an action. The featured agent, it is alleged, is manipulated into satisfying conditions compatibilists would take to be sufficient for acting freely. Such an example used in the context of an argument for incompatibilism is meant to elicit the intuition that, due to the pervasiveness of the manipulation, the agent does (...) not act freely and is not morally responsible for what she does. It is then claimed that any agent's coming to be in the same psychic state through a deterministic process is no different in any relevant respect from the pertinent manner of manipulation. Hence, it is concluded that compatibilists' proposed sufficient conditions for free will and moralresponsibility are inadequate, and that free will and moralresponsibility are incompatible with determinism. One way for compatibilists to resist certain manipulation arguments is by appealing to historical requirements that, they contend, relevant manipulated agents lack. While a growing number of compatibilists advance an historical thesis, in this paper, I redouble my efforts to show, in defense of nonhistorical compatibilists like Harry Frankfurt, that there is still life left in a nonhistorical view. The historical compatibilists, I contend, have fallen shy of discrediting their nonhistorical compatibilist rivals. (shrink)
The paper argues that it is possible for an incompatibilist to accept John Martin Fischer’s plausible insistence that the question whether we are morally responsible agents ought not to depend on whether the laws of physics turn out to be deterministic or merely probabilistic. The incompatibilist should do so by rejecting the fundamentalism which entails that the question whether determinism is true is a question merely about the nature of the basic physical laws. It is argued that this is a (...) better option for ensuring the irrelevance of physics than the embrace of semi-compatibilism, since there are reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities are necessary for moralresponsibility, despite Fischer’s claims to the contrary. There are two distinct reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities might be necessary for moralresponsibility—one of which is to do with fairness, the other to do with agency itself. It is suggested that if one focuses on the second of these reasons, Fischer’s arguments for supposing that alternate possibilities are unnecessary for moralresponsibility can be met by the incompatibilist. Some possible reasons for denying that alternate possibilities are necessary for the existence of agency are then raised and rejected. (shrink)
Book Information Suffering and MoralResponsibility. Suffering and MoralResponsibility Meyerfeld Jamie New York Oxford University Press ix + 237 Hardback £35 By Meyerfeld Jamie. Oxford University Press. New York. Pp. ix + 237. Hardback:£35.
It is sometimes objected that we cannot adopt skepticism about moralresponsibility, because the criminal justice system plays an indispensable social function. In this paper, I examine the implications of moralresponsibility skepticism for the punishment of those convicted of crime, with special attention to recent arguments by Saul Smilansky. Smilansky claims that the skeptic is committed to fully compensating the incarcerated for their detention, and that this compensation would both be too costly to be practical (...) and would remove the deterrent function from incarceration. I argue that the skeptic is not committed to full compensation of the offender, and that the costs of such compensation would in any case be far smaller than Smilansky thinks. In fact, I claim, the costs of the criminal justice system to which the skeptic is committed might be very much lower than the costs – economic, social and moral – we currently pay as a consequence of our system of punishment. (shrink)
Examination of several accounts regarding the nature of moralresponsibility allows the extraction of a conceptual core common to all of them. Relying on that core conception of moralresponsibility, the paper explores what human life without moralresponsibility would be like. That exploration establishes that many robust forms of human relationship and nonmoral normativity could continue, absent moralresponsibility, even if moralresponsibility were abandoned on incompatibilist grounds. Much more (...) importantly, it also establishes, contra Waller and Pereboom, that only some forms of morality—so-called “behavioral” forms—remain possible without moralresponsibility. The paper argues that normative moral approaches that take into account agent intentions in order to assess the moral status of action cannot be applied without moralresponsibility of agents. Thus, morality without responsibility needs to be behavioral, not consequentialist, as has often been thought. (shrink)
: The principle of respect for autonomy has come under increasing attack both within health care ethics, specifically, and as part of the more general communitarian challenge to predominantly liberal values. This paper will demonstrate the importance of respect for autonomy for the social practice of assigning moralresponsibility and for the development of moralresponsibility as a virtue. Guided by this virtue, the responsible exercise of autonomy may provide a much-needed connection between the individual and (...) the community. (shrink)
When a person performs or fails to perform a morally significant action, we sometimes think that a particular kind of response is warranted. Praise and blame are perhaps the most obvious forms this reaction might take. For example, one who encounters a car accident may be regarded as worthy of praise for having saved a child from inside the burning car, or alternatively, one may be regarded as worthy of blame for not having used one's mobile phone to call for (...) help. To regard such agents as worthy of one of these reactions is to ascribe moralresponsibility to them on the basis of what they have done or left undone. (These are examples of other-directed ascriptions of responsibility. The reaction might also be self-directed, e.g., one can recognize oneself to be blameworthy). Thus, to be morally responsible for something, say an action, is to be worthy of a particular kind of reaction —praise, blame, or something akin to these—for having performed it.[1.. (shrink)
Control-based accounts of moralresponsibility face a familiar problem. There are some actions which look like obvious cases of responsibility but which appear equally obviously to lack the requisite control. Drunk-driving cases are canonical instances. The familiar solution to this problem is to appeal to tracing. Though the drunk driver isn't in control at the time of the crash, this is because he previously drank to excess, an action over which he did plausibly exercise the requisite control. (...) Tracing seeks to show that an agent's responsibility for some outcome (over which he lacked control) can be traced back to a prior exercise of control which caused (in the right way) the later lack of control. These and related cases have led many theorists to treat tracing as an indispensable component of any adequate theory of responsibility. This paper argues that tracing is in fact dispensable. I offer two strategies for explaining responsibility in drunk-driving cases (and those with a similar structure): responsibility can either be exhaustively modeled on recklessness, or exhaustively modeled on negligence. Neither explanation, however, relies on tracing. If I'm right, the case for tracing is seriously weakened. (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.
The question of corporate moralresponsibility – whether corporate bodies can be held morally responsible for their actions – has been debated by a number of writers since the 1970s. This discussion is intended to add to that debate, and focuses for that purpose on our understanding of the organisation. Though the integrity of the organisation has been called into question by the postmodern view of organisations, that view does not necessarily rule out the attribution of corporate agency, (...) any more than the postmodern view of the person rules out the attribution of individual agency. The postmodern view is opposed to a reifying, metaphysical view of corporate agency, but a semantic view of corporate agency would seem to sit more comfortably with it. A bigger problem for the idea of corporate moralresponsibility arises from the fact that in Kantian terms organisations are not ends in themselves. In that sense they are not like persons, and this must limit their autonomy, and their responsibility. This aspect of organisations also limits their punishability. For these reasons corporate moralresponsibility must be seen as more limited than the responsibility of persons. (shrink)
New scientific advances have created previously unheard of possibilities for enhancing combatants' performance. Future war fighters may be smarter, stronger, and braver than ever before. If these technologies are safe, is there any reason to reject their use? In this article, I argue that the use of enhancements is constrained by the importance of maintaining the moralresponsibility of military personnel. This is crucial for two reasons: the military's ethical commitments require military personnel to be morally responsible agents, (...) and moralresponsibility is necessary for integrity and the moral emotions of guilt and remorse, both of which are important for moral growth and psychological well-being. Enhancements that undermined combatants' moralresponsibility would therefore undermine the military's moral standing and would harm combatants' well-being. A genuine commitment to maintaining the military's ethical standards and the well-being of combatants therefore requires a careful analysis of performance-enhancing technologies before they are implemented. (shrink)
The paper attempts to explicate and justify the position I call `Agency Incompatibilism'- that is to say, the view that agency itself is incompatible with determinism. The most important part of this task is the characterisation of the conception of agency on which the position depends; for unless this is understood, the rationale for the position is likely to be missed. The paper accordingly proceeds by setting out the orthodox philosophical position concerning what it takes for agency to exist, before (...) going on to explain why and how that orthodoxy should be challenged. The relations between my own views and those of others writing on the issues of free will and moralresponsibility, in three crucial and inter-connected areas are then explored. These are (1) the question how animals should figure in the philosophy of action; (2) the question what the lesson is of `Frankfurt-style' examples; and (3) the distinction between so-called `leeway' incompatibilism and `source' incompatibilism. The paper moves on to consider and respond to various objections to Agency Incompatibilism, including the claim that to embrace the conception of agency that makes incompatibilism plausible is to beg the question against the compatibilist, and also the worry that determinism is an empirical thesis which ought not to be straightforwardly falsifiable by such a priori reasoning as Agency Incompatibilism appears to involve. I also try to rebut the worry that Agency Incompatibilism is committed to the existence of an unintelligible and/or naturalistically impossible variety of irreducible agent causation. (shrink)
Are current theories of moralresponsibility missing a factor in the attribution of blame and praise? Four studies demonstrated that even when cause, intention, and outcome (factors generally assumed to be sufficient for the ascription of moralresponsibility) are all present, blame and praise are discounted when the factors are not linked together in the usual manner (i.e., cases of ‘‘causal deviance’’). Experiment 4 further demonstrates that this effect of causal deviance is driven by intuitive gut (...) feelings of right and wrong, not logical deliberation. Ó 2003 Published by Elsevier Science (USA). (shrink)
In this collection of essays -- a follow up to My Way and Our Stories -- John Martin Fischer defends the contention that moralresponsibility is associated with "deep control". Fischer defines deep control as the middle ground between two untenable extreme positions: "superficial control" and "total control". -/- Our freedom consists of the power to add to the given past, holding fixed the laws of nature, and therefore, Fischer contends, we must be able to interpret our actions (...) as extensions of a line that represents the actual past. In "connecting the dots", we engage in a distinctive sort of self-expression. In the first group of essays in this volume, Fischer argues that we do not need genuine access to alterative possibilities in order to be morally responsible. Thus, the line need not branch off at crucial points (where the branches represent genuine metaphysical possibilities). In the remaining essays in the collection he demonstrates that deep control is the freedom condition on moralresponsibility. In so arguing, Fischer contends that total control is too much to ask--it is a form of "metaphysical megalomania". So we do not need to "trace back" all the way to the beginning of the line (or even farther) in seeking the relevant kind of freedom or control. Additionally, he contends that various kinds of "superficial control"--such as versions of "conditional freedom" and "judgment-sensitivity" are too shallow; they don't trace back far enough along the line. In short, Fischer argues that, in seeking the freedom that grounds moralresponsibility, we need to carve out a middle ground between superficiality and excessive penetration. Deep Control is the "middle way". Fischer presents a new argument that deep control is compatible not just with causal determinism, but also causal indeterminism. He thus tackles the luck problem and shows that the solution to this problem is parallel in important ways to the considerations in favor of the compatibility of causal determinism and moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Skill or control is commonly regarded as a necessary condition for intentional action. This received wisdom is challenged by experiments conducted by Joshua Knobe and Thomas Nadelhoffer, which suggest that moral considerations sometimes trump considerations of skill and control. I argue that this effect (as well as the Knobe effect) can be explained in terms of the role normative reasons play in the concept of intentional action. This explanation has significant advantages over its rivals. It involves at most a (...) conservative extension rather than a radical revision of what we tend to believe about intentional action, and it fits better with the way we conceive of the relation between intentional action and moralresponsibility. (shrink)
It has been argued that all compatibilist accounts of free action and moralresponsibility succumb to the manipulation problem: evil neurologists or their like may manipulate an agent, in the absence of the agent's awareness of being so manipulated, so that when the agent performs an action, requirements of the compatibilist contender at issue are satisfied. But intuitively, the agent is not responsible for the action. We propose that the manipulation problem be construed as a problem of deviance. (...) In troubling cases of manipulation, psychological elements such as desires and beliefs, among other things, are acquired via causal routes that are deviant relative to causal routes deemed normal or baseline. We develop and defend rudiments of a baseline that is acceptable independently of whether one has compatibilist or incompatibilist leanings. (shrink)
This essay examines some ethical aspects of stalkingincidents in cyberspace. Particular attention is focused on the Amy Boyer/Liam Youens case of cyberstalking, which has raised a number of controversial ethical questions. We limit our analysis to three issues involving this particular case. First, we suggest that the privacy of stalking victims is threatened because of the unrestricted access to on-linepersonal information, including on-line public records, currently available to stalkers. Second, we consider issues involving moralresponsibility and legal liability (...) for Internet service providers (ISPs) when stalking crimesoccur in their `space' on the Internet. Finally, we examine issues of moralresponsibility for ordinary Internet users to determine whether they are obligated to inform persons whom they discover to be the targets of cyberstalkers. (shrink)
In 'Doing and Allowing', Samuel Scheffler argues that if a person sees herself as subject to norms of individual moralresponsibility, then the content of her first-order substantive norms of individual moralresponsibility must attribute greater responsibility to what one does than to what one could, but fails, to prevent. This paper is about how a morally responsible agent could deny the doctrine of doing and allowing, why an environmentalist should, and what this means for (...) environmental ethical theory. (shrink)
The phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change—in which weather patterns and attendant ecological disruption result from increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere through human activities—challenges several conventional assumptions regarding moralresponsibility. Multifarious individual acts and choices contribute (often imperceptibly) to the causal chain that is expected to produce profound and lasting harm unless significant mitigation efforts begin soon. Attributing responsibility for such harmful consequences is complicated by what Derek Parfit terms “mistakes in moral mathematics,” (...) or failures to correctly assess the various individual contributions to collectively produced harm. Combined with the difficulties in attributingresponsibility to agents for spatially and temporally distant harmful effects and that of holding agents culpable for effects (resulting from socially-acceptable acts) about which they may be ignorant, this paper attempts to sort out several ethical problems surrounding the identification of responsible parties contributing to climate change. (shrink)