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)
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)
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)
P.F. Strawson’s theory of moralresponsibility remains eminently influential. However, moral philosophers such as G. Watson and T.M. Scanlon have called into question it explanatory basis, which grounds moralresponsibility in human nature and interpersonal relationships. They demand a deeper normative explanation for when it is appropriate to modify or mollify the reactive attitudes. In this paper, following A. Sneddon, I argue that the best interpretation of Strawson is an externalistic one which construes moral (...)responsibility as an interpersonal social competence, as this approach uniquely satisfies Strawson’s demand that we justify the reactive attitudes from within the participant perspective. I then show that this is the only interpretation capable of preserving Strawson’s well-known excuse of being peculiarly unfortunate in one’s formative circumstances. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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 "moral luck" as part of their explanation are analysed in the light of this insight, the case for "moral luck" dissolves. (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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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 self-deceived are usually held to be moral responsible for their state. I argue that this attribution of responsibility makes sense only against the background of the traditional conception of self-deception, a conception that is now widely rejected. In its place, a new conception of self-deception has been articulated, which requires neither intentional action by self-deceived agents, nor that they possess contradictory beliefs. This new conception has neither need nor place for attributions of moralresponsibility to (...) the self-deceived in paradigmatic cases. Accordingly, we should take the final step toward abandoning the traditional conception, and drop the automatic attribution of responsibility. Self-deception is simply a kind of mistake, and has no more necessary connection to culpability than have other intellectual errors. (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 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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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 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 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)
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 Moral philosophy meets social psychology, Gilbert Harman argues that social psychology can educate folk morality to prevent us from committing the ‘fundamental attribution error,’ i.e. ‘the error of ignoring situational factors and overconfidently assuming that distinctive behaviour or patterns of behaviour are due to an agent’s distinctive character traits’ (Harman, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 99, 315–331, 1999). An overview of the literature shows that while situationists unanimously agree with Harman on this point, they disagree on whether we (...) also tend to commit a kind of fundamental attribution error with respect to moralresponsibility and blame. Do we also tend to ignore situational factors and overconfidently assume that people are morally responsible and blameworthy for their distinctive patterns of wrongful behaviour? Very few scholars have addressed this issue, and none has ever given a comprehensive account of moralresponsibility and blame from a situationist perspective. In this paper, I argue that situationist social psychology impugns subjective theories of responsibility and blame which focus on the agent’s inner states and supports an objective theory—namely, the standard of the reasonable person. I defend this standard as a tool for moral appraisal, and then I refute the common misperception that this approach lets most perpetrators off the hook and poses a threat to society. (shrink)
The growing prominence of computers in contemporary life, often seemingly with minds of their own, invites rethinking the question of moralresponsibility. If the moralresponsibility for an act lies with the subject that carried it out, it follows that different concepts of the subject generate different views of moralresponsibility. Some recent theorists have argued that actions are produced by composite, fluid subjects understood as extended agencies (cyborgs, actor networks). This view of the (...) subject contrasts with methodological individualism: the idea that actions are produced only by human individuals. This essay compares two views of responsibility: moral individualism (the ethical twin of methodological individualism), and joint responsibility (associated with extended agency theory). It develops a view of what joint responsibility might look like, and considers the advantages it might bring relative to moral individualism as well as the objections that are sure to be raised against it. (shrink)
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.
Hanson claims that moralresponsibility should be distributed among both the humans and artifacts comprising complex wholes that produce morally relevant outcomes in the world. I argue that this claim is not sufficiently supported. In particular, adopting a consequentialist understanding of morality does not by itself support the view that the existence of a causally necessary object in such a complex whole is sufficient for assigning moralresponsibility to that object. Moreover, there are good reasons, both (...) evolutionary and contemporary, for not adopting this stance. (shrink)
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)
The academic debate over the propriety of attributing moralresponsibility to corporations is decades old and ongoing. The conventional approach to this debate is to identify the sufficient conditions for moral agency and then attempt to determine whether corporations possess them. This article recommends abandoning the conventional approach in favor of an examination of the practical consequences of corporate moralresponsibility. The article’s thesis is that such an examination reveals that attributing moralresponsibility (...) to corporations is ethically acceptable only if it does not authorize the punishment of corporations as collective entities, and further, that this renders the debate over corporate moralresponsibility virtually pointless. (shrink)
This article discusses mechanisms and principles for assignment of moralresponsibility to intelligent robots, with special focus on military robots. We introduce the concept autonomous power as a new concept, and use it to identify the type of robots that call for moral considerations. It is furthermore argued that autonomous power, and in particular the ability to learn, is decisive for assignment of moralresponsibility to robots. As technological development will lead to robots with increasing (...) autonomous power, we should be prepared for a future when people blame robots for their actions. It is important to, already today, investigate the mechanisms that control human behavior in this respect. The results may be used when designing future military robots, to control unwanted tendencies to assign responsibility to the robots. Independent of the responsibility issue, the moral quality of robots’ behavior should be seen as one of many performance measures by which we evaluate robots. How to design ethics based control systems should be carefully investigated already now. From a consequentialist view, it would indeed be highly immoral to develop robots capable of performing acts involving life and death, without including some kind of moral framework. (shrink)
The stakeholder approach offers the opportunity to consider corporate responsibility in a wider sense than that afforded by the stockholder or shareholder approaches. Having said that, this article aims to show that this theory does not offer a normative corporate responsibility concept that can be our response to two basic questions. On the one hand, for what is the company morally responsible and, on the other hand, why is the corporation morally responsible in terms of conventional and post-conventional (...) perspectives? The reason why the stakeholder approach does not offer such a definition, as we shall see, is because the normative stakeholder approaches tend to confuse the social validity with the moral validity or legitimacy. It leads us to a conventional definition of corporate moralresponsibility (CMR) that is not relevant to the pluralistic and global framework of our societies and economies. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate this intuition. (shrink)
This paper starts from the presupposition that moral codes often do not suffice to make agents understand their moralresponsibility. We will illustrate this statement with a concrete example of engineers who design a truckâs trailer and who do not think traffic safety is part of their responsibility. This opinion clashes with a common supposition that designers in fact should do all that is in their power to ensure safety in traffic. In our opinion this shows (...) the need for a moral philosophy that helps engineers to interpret their responsibility and think more critically about it. For this purpose we will explore the moral philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre, which is particularly interesting because he locates the beginning of moral thinking in the daily practice of a profession. This is consistent with the history of moral codes, for codes are also the product of moral reflection by professionals. We will use MacIntyreâs philosophy to (1) explain what is wrong with the designersâ understanding of their responsibility and (2) show a possible way to bring their reflection to a more self-critical level. We will also inspect MacIntyreâs proposal critically. (shrink)
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)