Blaming Badly

Moral philosophers, legal theorists, and psychologists who study moral judgment are remarkably agreed in prescribing how to blame people. A blameworthy act occurs when an actor intentionally, negligently or recklessly causes foreseen, or foreseeable, harmful consequences without any compelling mitigating or extenuating circumstances. This simple formulation conveniently forestalls intricacies about how to construe concepts such as will, causation, foresight, and mitigation, but putting that aside for the moment, it seems fair to say that blame “professionals” share compatible conceptions of how to make fair and rational blame ascriptions. Blame “amateurs,” on the other hand, sometimes stretch these rational prescriptions for blame beyond the breaking point. Numerous psychological studies on blame and responsibility, as well as the perplexing outcomes of high-profile criminal and civil trials, demonstrate that everyday blamers are capable of violating virtually every rational prescription that moral philosophers, legal scholars, and rational decision theorists hold dear.
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Joshua Knobe (2007). Experimental Philosophy. Philosophy Compass 2 (1):81–92.
Joshua Knobe (2007). Reason Explanation in Folk Psychology. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1):90–106.

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