Resisting Tracing's Siren Song

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (1):1-24 (2016)
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Drunk drivers and other culpably incapacitated wrongdoers are often taken to pose a problem for reasons-responsiveness accounts of moral responsibility. These accounts predicate moral responsibility upon an agent having the capacities to perceive and act upon moral reasons, and the culpably incapacitated wrongdoers lack exactly those capacities at the time of their wrongdoing. Many reasons-responsiveness advocates thus expand their account of responsibility to include a tracing condition: The culpably incapacitated wrongdoer is blameworthy despite his incapacitation precisely because he is responsible for becoming incapacitated. As some skeptics have suggested, it is not clear that we need tracing. Here, however, I make a stronger case against tracing: I show that tracing gets things wrong. I consider a new sort of case, the case of the Odysseus agent, whose incapacitation is non-culpable (sometimes merely permissible and sometimes praiseworthy). Tracing would have us hold responsible and therefore blame unlucky Odysseus agents, Odysseus agents who commit a wrongdoing in the throes of their non-culpably induced incapacitation. But we should not hold these unlucky Odysseus agents responsible for their incapacitated wrongdoing. Because tracing gets these cases wrong, we should reject tracing.

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Craig K. Agule
Rutgers University - Camden

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility.John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza - 1998 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mark Ravizza.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Law’s Empire.Ronald Dworkin - 1986 - Harvard University Press.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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