Moral Responsibility and Consciousness

Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2):200-228 (2012)
Authors
Peter Carruthers
University of Maryland, College Park
Matt King
University of Alabama, Birmingham
Abstract
Our aim in this paper is to raise a question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. Our question has rarely been raised previously. Among those who believe in the reality of human freedom, compatibilists have traditionally devoted their energies to providing an account that can avoid any commitment to the falsity of determinism while successfully accommodating a range of intuitive examples. Libertarians, in contrast, have aimed to show that either physical indeterminacy or a certain kind of agent causation can find a place in the world for what they take to be genuine freedom. Few have considered whether moral responsibility requires a commitment to conscious attitudes.2 Our question derives from a confluence of two sources. First, there is reason to think that conscious attitudes matter to theories of responsibility, either directly, as a result of the latter’s commitments, or indirectly, by virtue of the assumptions that they make about certain intuitive examples. Second, there is accumulating evidence suggesting that there aren’t any conscious mental states possessing the sorts of causal roles required of propositional attitudes. Since theorists of responsibility should in general be concerned to make their views compatible with plausible claims about the natural world, the implications of this data should be carefully considered. Our aim is therefore to motivate and begin exploring answers to the following conditional question: If it should turn out that there are no conscious attitudes, then what would be the implications of this fact (if any) for theories of responsibility? We propose that theorists who aren’t skeptics about moral responsibility should examine their accounts, asking whether their theories (or the examples that motivate them) could survive the discovery that there are no conscious judgments, decisions, or evaluations. Since we take it that moral theorizing in general should operate with the weakest possible empirical assumptions about the natural world, such theorists should consider whether their accounts could be motivated in such a way as to be free of any commitment to the existence of conscious attitudes..
Keywords psychology   consciousness   moral responsibility   Real Self views
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DOI 10.1163/174552412X625682
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Unconscious Perception Reconsidered.Ian Phillips - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (4):471-514.
Self-Expression: A Deep Self Theory of Moral Responsibility.Chandra Sripada - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1203-1232.
Implicit Bias, Awareness and Imperfect Cognitions.Jules Holroyd - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:511-523.

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