I—Miranda Fricker: The Relativism of Blame and Williams's Relativism of Distance

Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 84 (1):151-177 (2010)
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Abstract

Bernard Williams is a sceptic about the objectivity of moral value, embracing instead a qualified moral relativism—the ‘relativism of distance’. His attitude to blame too is in part sceptical. I will argue that the relativism of distance is unconvincing, even incoherent; but also that it is detachable from the rest of Williams's moral philosophy. I will then go on to propose an entirely localized thesis I call the relativism of blame, which says that when an agent's moral shortcomings by our lights are a matter of their living according to the moral thinking of their day, judgements of blame are out of order. Finally, I will propose a form of moral judgement we may sometimes quite properly direct towards historically distant agents when blame is inappropriate—moral-epistemic disappointment. Together these two proposals may help release us from the grip of the idea that moral appraisal always involves the potential applicability of blame, and so from a key source of the relativist idea that moral appraisal is inappropriate over distance.

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Miranda Fricker
CUNY Graduate Center

Citations of this work

Explaining away epistemic skepticism about culpability.Gunnar Björnsson - 2017 - In Shoemaker David (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 141–164.
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Implicit Bias, Moods, and Moral Responsibility.Alex Madva - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (S1):53-78.
Implicit bias, awareness and imperfect cognitions.Jules Holroyd - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:511-523.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Harvard University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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