A theory of the normative force of pleas

Philosophical Studies 163 (2):479-502 (2013)
A familiar feature of our moral responsibility practices are pleas: considerations, such as “That was an accident”, or “I didn’t know what else to do”, that attempt to get agents accused of wrongdoing off the hook. But why do these pleas have the normative force they do in fact have? Why does physical constraint excuse one from responsibility, while forgetfulness or laziness does not? I begin by laying out R. Jay Wallace’s (Responsibility and the moral sentiments, 1994 ) theory of the normative force of excuses and exemptions. For each category of plea, Wallace offers a single governing moral principle that explains their normative force. The principle he identifies as governing excuses is the Principle of No Blameworthiness without Fault: an agent is blameworthy only if he has done something wrong. The principle he identifies as governing exemptions is the Principle of Reasonableness: an agent is morally accountable only if he is normatively competent. I argue that Wallace’s theory of exemptions is sound, but that his account of the normative force of excuses is problematic, in that it fails to explain the full range of excuses we offer in our practices, especially the excuses of addiction and extreme stress. I then develop a novel account of the normative force of excuses, which employs what I call the “Principle of Reasonable Opportunity,” that can explain the full range of excuses we offer and that is deeply unified with Wallace’s theory of the normative force of exemptions. An important implication of the theory I develop is that moral responsibility requires free will
Keywords moral responsibility  free will  blame  semi-compatibilism  R. Jay Wallace  addiction
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9826-y
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,804
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Free Will and Luck.Alfred R. Mele - 2006 - Oxford University Press.

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Excuses for Hume's Skepticism.Yuval Avnur - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (2):264-306.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Excusing Crime.Jeremy Horder - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
Puzzling About State Excuses as an Instance of Group Excuses.François Tanguay-Renaud - forthcoming - In R. A. Duff, L. Farmer, S. Marshall & V. Tadros (eds.), The Constitution of Criminal Law. Oxford University Press.
Replies.R. Jay Wallace - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (3):707–727.
Freedom and Moral Responsibility in Confucian Ethics.Chad Hansen - 1972 - Philosophy East and West 22 (2):169-186.
Responsibility.Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred Dycus Miller & Jeffrey Paul (eds.) - 1999 - Cambridge University Press.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

58 ( #89,364 of 2,158,927 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #193,038 of 2,158,927 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums