Philosophical Topics 32 (1/2):255-274 (2004)
AbstractThe principal aim of this essay is to explore aspects of the phenomenon of moral conversation at work in ascriptions of responsibility. A corollary aim will be to understand the variety of freedom we regard as foundational to ascriptions of responsibility. To ascribe responsibility to a person is to judge that the person is accountable for her behavior. Accountability demands that a person be a moral interlocutor; being a moral interlocutor requires that a person is alert to moral reasons in favor of or against the behavior in question and requires that a person is a discursive partner. So understood, ascriptions of responsibility may be characterized as resting on some version of a contractualist theory of morality, where one mark of fitness for membership in the community of moral agents is an ability to adjust one’s behavior in keeping with norms that others could not reasonably reject.
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