Difficulty and Degrees of Moral Praiseworthiness and Blameworthiness

Noûs 50 (2):356-378 (2016)


In everyday life, we assume that there are degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Yet the debate about the nature of moral responsibility often focuses on the “yes or no” question of whether indeterminism is required for moral responsibility, while questions about what accounts for more or less blameworthiness or praiseworthiness are underexplored. In this paper, I defend the idea that degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness can depend in part on degrees of difficulty and degrees of sacrifice required for performing the action in question. Then I turn to the question of how existing accounts of the nature of moral responsibility might be seen to accommodate these facts. In each case of prominent compatibilist and incompatibilist accounts that I consider, I argue that supplementation with added dimensions is required in order to account for facts about degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. For example, I argue that the reasons-responsiveness view of Fischer and Ravizza requires supplementation that takes us beyond even fine-grained measures of degrees of reasons-responsiveness in order to capture facts about degrees of difficulty to extend the reasons-responsiveness view by appealing to such measures). I conclude by showing that once we recognize the need for these additional parameters, we will be in a position to explain away at least some of the appeal of incompatibilist accounts of moral responsibility.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,660

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

260 (#43,498)

6 months
23 (#38,966)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Similar books and articles

Against Luck-Free Moral Responsibility.Robert J. Hartman - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2845-2865.
Moral Responsibility and Merit.Matt King - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (2):1-18.
The Metaphysics of Moral Responsibility.Scott Alan Davison - 1993 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
Epistemic Responsibility.J. Angelo Corlett - 2008 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 16 (2):179 – 200.
Two Faces of Desert.Matt King - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 169 (3):401-424.
A Sketch of a Theory of Moral Blameworthiness.Peter A. Graham - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):388-409.
Direct Moral Grounding and the Legal Model of Moral Normativity.Benjamin Sachs - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4):703-716.
Moral Ignorance and Blameworthiness.Elinor Mason - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (11):3037-3057.
Counterfactual Situations and Moral Worth.Kelly Sorensen - 2014 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (3):294-319.
Infima of D.R.E. Degrees.Jiang Liu, Shenling Wang & Guohua Wu - 2010 - Archive for Mathematical Logic 49 (1):35-49.

Author's Profile

Dana Kay Nelkin
University of California, San Diego

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.

View all 48 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

Moral Luck and The Unfairness of Morality.Robert J. Hartman - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3179-3197.
Explaining (Away) the Epistemic Condition on Moral Responsibility.Gunnar Björnsson - 2017 - In Philip Robichaud & Jan Willem Wieland (eds.), Responsibility - The Epistemic Condition. Oxford University Press. pp. 146–162.
Impermissible yet Praiseworthy.Theron Pummer - 2021 - Ethics 131 (4):697-726.
Instrumentalism About Moral Responsibility Revisited.Anneli Jefferson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (276):555-573.

View all 60 citations / Add more citations