Praise, Blame and the Whole Self

Philosophical Studies 93 (2):161-188 (1999)
What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” the interdisciplinary nature of the question has been emphasized by various authors. Going beyond the boundaries of the traditional free will debate, they have attempted to describe the requirements for agent accountability by appeal to theories of personality, rational agency, and ethical choice. The approach has been a breath of fresh air in the often-stagnant free will debate, bringing new considerations to bear and provoking new lines of argument, and it is an approach that we will adopt in this paper. In the following pages, we hope to show that an under-noticed phenomenon of moral psychology, inverse akrasia, exemplified by Huckleberry Finn, has something to contribute to the understanding of agency and accountability. After presenting the phenomenon in section I, we will move in section II to a quick survey of a family of Frankfurt-inspired views and a critique of them based on the phenomenon in sections III and IV. A new theory will be offered in section V, and potential objections addressed in the final section of the paper.
Keywords Huck Finn  Huckleberry Finn  Inverse Akrasia  Frankfurt  Blame  Praise
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DOI 10.1023/A:1004222928272
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