Manuel Vargas, Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility

Social Theory and Practice 42 (1):205-211 (2016)

Abstract

I develop and explore the main themes of Vargas's recent book. The first section of my review lays out Vargas's case for revisionism about moral responsibility: the idea that our thinking about moral responsibility is internally inconsistent, so we need to purge core problematic elements. In the section section, I develop Vargas's own revisionist position. Vargas argues that the practice of blaming people aims at agency cultivation: trying to train people to be more sensitive to moral considerations. I explore similarities between Vargas's model of blame and the classical model, also knows as the 'morality's enforcer' or 'economy of threats' model. I argue that Vargas's revisionism shares the core problem of this model: it has difficulty making sense of the warrant of blaming people who are and will be continue to be unresponsive to blame. Finally, I briefly explore Vargas's discussion of the situationist literature and his argument that manipulation cases don't threaten our being morally responsible for what we do.

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Zac Cogley
Ohio State University (PhD)

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