How Not to Defend Moral Blame

At first sight, moral blame is an unpleasant thing. No one likes being blamed and few people like experiencing the negative emotions associated with blaming others. Therefore, some suggest a radical reform of our everyday moral life: We should replace our tendency to blame wrongdoers with a tendency to criticize them in a less harmful and more productive way. The blameless fight for the good by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi may exemplify this alternative. Many philosophers, however, think that such a reform would be bad. In this discussion note, I will focus on R. Jay Wallace’s claim that our tendency to blame wrongdoers stands in relation to some important good such that we would necessarily lose this good if we stopped blaming each other. He argues that blaming wrongdoers expresses one’s commitment to morality in a special way and that no other response could serve this function. I will show that there are forms of moral sadness in our psychological repertoire that differ from blame but have the same expressive dimension that blame is supposed to have. Thus, I will suggest that the question of whether we should try to get rid of our tendency to blame is still open.
Keywords Blame  R. Jay Wallace  Reactive Attitudes  Resentment  Indignation
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