Conditions of Moral Responsibility

Dissertation, University of Notre Dame (2000)
Gordon Pettit
Western Illinois University
The conditions of moral responsibility include having the right kind and amount of control over actions, events or states of affairs that are morally significant. Both metaphysical issues and normative concerns are relevant, and these are extensively intertwined. This dissertation proposes a framework for an original theory of moral responsibility. The idea that rational autonomy is required for moral responsibility is developed and defended. I clarify various aspects of rationality and the nature of autonomy in the context of my topic. I also address the important but infrequently discussed relation between views about the nature of morality and one's claims about the conditions for moral responsibility. I describe a form of moral objectivism assumed in my arguments, and argue that this assumption is not a disadvantage. ;Considerations about moral responsibility are often overly influenced by Frankfurt-style examples , and I provide an analysis of FSEs. I defend the position that the ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral responsibility, despite a pervasive denial of this claim. I argue that if we carefully specify the events for which agents are morally responsible, we find that FSE-based arguments fail to show that alternative possibilities are not required for moral responsibility. I contrast my theory with two recent theories of moral responsibility that I believe are the most successful: the Guidance Control Theory of John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza and the Reason View of Susan Wolf. ;Finally, I evaluate restrictivism, the position that something required for moral responsibility---the ability to do otherwise---is very rare. I argue that the best restrictivist argument is unsound and the most plausible revisions of the argument also fail. I conclude that people often have the ability to do otherwise if they have it at all, and there are no good reasons to adhere to restrictivism
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