Where Love and Resentment Meet: Strawson's Intrapersonal Defense of Compatibilism

Philosophical Review 121 (1):95-124 (2012)
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Abstract

In his seminal essay “Freedom and Resentment,” Strawson drew attention to the role of such emotions as resentment, moral indignation, and guilt in our moral and personal lives. According to Strawson, these reactive attitudes are at once constitutive of moral blame and inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. On this basis, he concluded that relinquishing moral blame isn’t a real possibility for us, given our commitment to personal relationships. If well founded, this conclusion puts the traditional free-will debate in a new light. In particular, in so far as incompatibilists believe that we can or should forgo moral blame if determinism is true, their stance may seem out of touch with our emotional reality. Here I examine Strawson’s claim that the reactive attitudes are inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. Strawson says surprisingly little to support this intriguing claim, and thus far no argument for it has emerged in the literature. My aim is to remedy this. Specifically, I set out an argument for a suitably formulated version of the inseparability claim, an argument that appeals to the relationship between the reactive attitudes and other elements of our emotional lives. I then show how this argument helps to answer an important recent challenge to Strawson’s position. If I am right, there is good reason to doubt that the reforms envisaged by some incompatibilists, reforms to our blame-related practices, are a real possibility for us.

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Seth Shabo
University of Delaware

Citations of this work

Valuing Anger.Antti Kauppinen - 2018 - In Myisha Cherry & Owen Flanagan (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Anger. Rowman & Littlefield.
Justification, coercion, and the place of public reason.Chad Van Schoelandt - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (4):1031-1050.
Strawson’s modest transcendental argument.D. Justin Coates - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (4):799-822.
Reactive attitudes and personal relationships.Per-Erik Milam - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (1):102-122.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Living Without Free Will.Derk Pereboom - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 2003 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.

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