A fundamental question in responsibility theory concerns the relation between being responsible and our practices of holding responsible. ‘Strawsonians’ often claim that being responsible is somehow a function of our practices of holding responsible, while others think that holding responsible depends on being responsible, and still others think of being and holding responsible as interdependent. Based on a Wittgensteinian reading of Strawson, I develop an account of the relation between being and holding responsible which respects major concerns of all parties (...) in this debate. I characterize the way in which being responsible depends on holding responsible as genealogical, and the way in which holding responsible depends on being responsible as justificatory. I show how my account cuts across received ways of carving up the debate, and how it allows for all the kinds of fallibility about moral responsibility that are worth wanting. (shrink)
D. Justin Coates argues that, in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, P. F. Strawson develops a modest transcendental argument for the legitimacy of our moral responsibility practices. I disagree with Coates’ claim that Strawson’s argument provides a justification, in Wittgenstein’s and/or Strawson’s sense of that term, of our responsibility practices. I argue that my interpretation of Strawson solves some difficulties with Coates’ argument, while retaining its advantages.
I highlight three features of P.F. Strawson’s later, neglected work on freedom and responsibility. First, in response to a criticism by Rajendra Prasad, Strawson explicitly rejects an argument put forward in ‘Freedom and Resentment’ against the relevance of determinism to moral responsibility. Second, his remarkable acceptance of Prasad’s criticism motivates him to take the ‘straight path’, that is, to be straightforward about the relation between determinism, freedom, the ability to do otherwise and the conditions of responsibility. He claims that the (...) ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition of responsibility and provides a list of additional conditions, including a knowledge condition. Third, he clarifies the relation between responsibility, quality of will and the reactive attitudes. The latter do not figure essentially in his answer to the question, ‘What are the conditions of responsibility?’, but they do play an essential role in his answer to the question, ‘Why do we have the concept of responsibility?’ We have it, Strawson suggests, because of our natural concern about the quality of will with which people act, a concern expressed in our reactive attitudes. I argue that, although Strawson’s later work definitely involves a shift of emphasis when compared to ‘Freedom and Resentment’, his overall account of freedom and responsibility is coherent. The later work helps to better understand the nature and significance of Strawson’s contribution, and to identify problems with common interpretations of and objections to ‘Freedom and Resentment’. (shrink)
Strawsonians about moral responsibility often claim that our practices of holding morally responsible fix the facts of moral responsibility, rather than the other way round. Many have argued that such ‘reversal’ claims have an unwelcome consequence: If our practices of holding morally responsible fix the facts of moral responsibility, does this not imply, absurdly, that if we held severely mentally ill people responsible, they would be responsible? We provide a new Strawsonian answer to this question, and we explore the relation (...) between reversal claims and (in)compatibilism. (shrink)
According to Michael Zimmerman, no interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal captures a significant truth. He raises several worries about the Strawsonian view that moral responsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes and claims that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. He outlines three problems. First, the existence of self-reactive attitudes may be incompatible with the interpersonal nature of moral responsibility. Secondly, Zimmerman questions (...) the significance of the interpersonal nature of moral responsibility, according to the Strawsonian view. Thirdly, he argues that that view may be taken to suggest the wrong kind of priority relation between ‘P is morally responsible’ and ‘it is appropriate to adopt some reactive attitude toward P’. I discuss each of these problems in turn and conclude that Strawsonians can respond to all three problems raised by Zimmerman. The Strawsonian view supports a significant interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
This book shows that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophical methods can be fruitfully applied to several problems in contemporary moral philosophy. The author considers Wittgenstein’s ethical views and addresses such topics as meta-ethics, objectivity in ethics and moral perception. Readers will gain an insight into how Wittgenstein thought about philosophical problems and a new way of looking at moral questions. The book consists of three parts. In the first part, Wittgenstein’s later philosophical methods are discussed, including his comparison of philosophical methods (...) to therapies. The book then goes on to explore how these methods give insight into Wittgenstein’s ethical views. Readers will see how these are better understood when read in the light of his later philosophical thought. In the third part, Wittgenstein’s later methods are applied to problems in contemporary moral philosophy, including a look at questions for moral advice. The author reviews and criticizes some of the secondary literature on Wittgenstein’s later philosophical methods and indicates how the topic of the book can be developed in future research. There is something of value for readers of all levels in this insightful and well written volume. It will particularly appeal to scholars and students of Wittgenstein, of philosophy, and of ethics. (shrink)
Internalism about moral responsibility is the view that moral responsibility is determined primarily by an agent's mental states; externalism is the view that moral responsibility is determined primarily by an agent's overt behaviour and by circumstances external to the agent. In a series of papers, Michelle Ciurria has argued that most if not all current accounts of moral responsibility, including Strawsonian ones, are internalist. Ciurria defends externalism against these accounts, and she argues that, in contrast to his contemporary followers, P.F. (...) Strawson himself was an externalist. I believe that Ciurria's reading of Strawson is problematic. The aim of this paper is to elucidate Strawson's position with regard to the internalism-externalism issue against the background of Ciurria's reading of him. I conclude that Strawson was neither an internalist nor an externalist about moral responsibility. I draw extensively upon the whole body of Strawson's work, much of which is sadly neglected in discussions of ‘Freedom and Resentment’, although it illuminates many of the issues discussed there. (shrink)
In “Correspondence to Reality in Ethics”, Mario Brandhorst examines the view of ethics that Wittgenstein took in his later years. According to Brandhorst, Wittgenstein leaves room for truth and falsity, facts, correspondence and reality in ethics. Wittgenstein's target, argues Brandhorst, is objectivity. I argue that Brandhorst's arguments in favour of truth, facts, reality and correspondence in ethics invite similar arguments in favour of objectivity, that Brandhorst does not recognise this because his conception of objectivity is distorted by a Platonist picture (...) and that he misinterprets the passage which he takes to support a Wittgensteinian case against objectivity. (shrink)
In this chapter we deal with the challenge to the existence of free will and moral responsibility that is raised by the threat of determinism from a Wittgensteinian perspective. Our argument starts by briefly recapitulating Wittgenstein’s analysis of the practice of doubt in On Certainty. We subsequently turn to the problem of free will. We argue that the existence of free will is a basic certainty and that the thesis of determinism fails to cast doubt on it. We thereby make (...) use of – but also try to go beyond – Wittgenstein’s own remarks in his “Lectures on Freedom of the Will”. In the final section we focus more explicitly on moral responsibility. Inspired by P.F. Strawson’s work on free will and moral responsibility, which we take to be deeply Wittgensteinian, we argue that our practices of holding each other responsible manifest basic human certainties which cannot be meaningfully challenged by invoking the thesis of determinism. (shrink)
Michael Zimmerman has recently argued against the twofold Strawsonian claim that there can be no moral responsibility without a moral community and that, as a result, moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. I offered a number of objections to Zimmerman’s view, to which Zimmerman responded. In this article, I respond to Zimmerman’s responses to my criticisms.
My aim in this chapter is to explore an analogy between logic and ethics, as Wittgenstein understands them in the Tractatus. First, I argue that Wittgenstein regards logic as a condition of the possibility of meaning, in the sense that logic makes meaningful language and thought possible. Second, I ask why Wittgenstein calls both logic and ethics ‘transcendental’. I suggest that, while logic is a condition of the possibility of semantic meaning, ethics is a condition of the possibility of existential (...) meaning. Without ethics, life could not be meaningful. Third, I show that harmony and agreement play a crucial role in Wittgenstein’s accounts of logic and ethics. A meaningful proposition can be true or false, a meaningful life can be happy or unhappy, and both truth and happiness consist in some kind of harmony or agreement with reality. (shrink)
We argue that P. F. Strawson's hugely influential account of moral responsibility in ‘Freedom and Resentment’ (FR) is inextricably bound up with his barely known account of morality in ‘Social Morality and Individual Ideal’ (SMII). Reading FR through the lens of SMII has at least three far-reaching implications. First, the ethics–morality distinction in SMII gives content to Strawson's famous distinction between personal and moral reactive attitudes, which has often been thought to be a merely formal distinction. Second, the ethics–morality distinction (...) sheds light on the scope of moral responsibility in FR, which is narrower than commentators think. Third, Strawson's discussion of morality shows that he was not insensitive to issues of power, as several critics have claimed. The link between morality and power helps to make clear that Strawson allows for criticism of our moral responsibility practices. (shrink)
Benjamin Bagley ('Properly Proleptic Blame', Ethics 127, July 2017) sets out a dilemma for addressed blame, that is, blame addressed to its targets as an implicit demand for recognition. The dilemma arises when we ask whether offenders would actually appreciate this demand, via a sound deliberative route from their existing motivations. If they would, their offense reflects a deliberative mistake. If they wouldn't, addressing them is futile, and blame's emotional engagement seems unwarranted. Bagley wants to resolve the dilemma in such (...) a way that addressed blame's distinctive elements of hostility and emotional engagement can be accounted for. I argue that Bagley's focus on the proleptic character of addressed blame helps to avoid the dilemma, but that Bagley has difficulties accounting for the element of hostility in addressed blame. I suggest that an alternative account of addressed blame makes better sense of Bagley's paradigm example, avoids Bagley's dilemma in the way Bagley's original solution does, because it preserves addressed blame's proleptic character, and can account for addressed blame's elements of emotional engagement and hostility. (shrink)
It is often assumed that moral questions ask for answers in the way other questions do. In this article, moral and non-moral versions of the question ‘Should I do x or y?’ are compared. While non-moral questions of that form typically ask for answers of the form ‘You should do x/y’, so-called ‘narrow answers’, moral questions often do not ask for such narrow answers. Rather, they ask for answers recognizing their delicacy, the need for a deeper understanding of the meaning (...) of the alternatives and the fact that moral decisions are, as Gaita formulates it, ‘non-accidentally and inescapably’ the agent’s to make. In short, moral questions often ask for a kind of answer that is highly different from the kind of answer non-moral questions ask for. In presupposing the ideal answer to a moral question to be a narrow answer, moral philosophers have tended to overlook this. (shrink)
Cognitivists and non-cognitivists in contemporary meta-ethics tend to assume that moral judgments are semantically uniform. That is, they share the assumption that either all moral judgments express beliefs, or they all express non-beliefs. But what if some moral judgments express beliefs and others do not? Then moral judgments are not semantically uniform and the question “Cognitivist or non-cognitivist?” poses a false dilemma. I will question the assumption that moral judgments are semantically uniform. First, I will explain what I mean by (...) the assumption (section 2). I will call this assumption SUM, the semantic uniformity of moral judgments. Second, I will provide some examples in order to illustrate that SUM cannot be taken for granted (section 3). Third, I will try to understand, using ideas from Wittgenstein, why SUM has nevertheless so often been taken for granted (section 4). Fourth, I will discuss some authors in contemporary meta-ethics who have noted the false dilemma between cognitivism and non-cognitivism and evaluate the solutions they propose for overcoming it (section 5). Fifth, I will indicate, again with some help from Wittgenstein, how meta-ethical research about moral judgments is possible without the assumption that morality is semantically uniform (section 6). (shrink)
Moral philosophy has traditionally aimed for correct or appropriate moral judgments. Consequently, when asked for moral advice, the moral philosopher first tries to develop a moral judgment and then informs the advisee. The focus is on what the advisee should do, not on whether any advice should be given. There may, however, be various kinds of reasons not to morally judge, to be ‘morally modest’. In the first part of this article, I give some reasons to be morally modest when (...) moral advice is asked for. Second, I show how Wittgenstein radicalizes these reasons to such an extent that the very possibility of giving moral advice seems threatened. Third, I argue that taking Wittgenstein and the need for moral modesty seriously does not make moral advice impossible, but rather asks for a notion of moral advice in which moral advice is not necessarily linked to the ideal of a moral judgment. Fourth, I highlight some advantages of a Wittgensteinian notion of moral advice over traditional notions. (shrink)
Defenders of moral perception have famously argued that seeing value is relevantly similar to seeing color. Some critics think, however, that the analogy between color-seeing and value-seeing breaks down in several crucial respects. Defenders of moral perception, these critics say, have not succeeded in providing examples of non-moral perception that are relevantly analogous to cases of moral perception. Therefore, it can be doubted whether there is such a thing as moral perception at all. I argue that, although the analogy between (...) color perception and moral perception does indeed break down in several crucial respects, that conclusion does not weaken the case of defenders of moral perception, because better analogies are available. If defenders of moral perception seek to draw support from an analogy, then seeing emotion will protect them better against criticisms than will seeing color. (shrink)
Wittgenstein’s comparison of philosophical methods to therapies has been interpreted in highly different ways. I identify the illness, the patient, the therapist and the ideal of health in Wittgenstein’s philosophical methods and answer four closely related questions concerning them that have often been wrongly answered by commentators. The results of this paper are, first, some answers to crucial questions: philosophers are not literally ill, patients of philosophical therapies are not always philosophers, not all philosophers qualify as therapists, the therapies are (...) not necessarily to be thought of as psychological therapies and the ideal of health does not consist in the end of philosophy. Second, the paper shows that the comparison has had a misleading effect, because properties of therapies have been illegitimately projected onto the philosophical methods advanced by Wittgenstein. (shrink)
Ethics and Logic in the Tractatus. Exploring an Analogy I explore an analogy between logic and ethics, as Wittgenstein understands them in the Tractatus. In the first section, I argue that Wittgenstein regards logic as a condition of the possibility of meaning, in the sense that logic makes meaningful language and thought possible. In section two, I ask why Wittgenstein calls both logic and ethics ‘transcendental’. I suggest that, while logic is a condition of the possibility of semantic meaning, ethics (...) is a condition of the possibility of existential meaning. Without ethics, life could not be meaningful. In section three, I show that harmony and agreement play a crucial role in Wittgenstein’s accounts of logic and ethics. A meaningful proposition can be true or false, a meaningful life can be happy or unhappy, and both truth and happiness consist in some kind of harmony or agreement with reality. (shrink)
What is a moral argument? A straightforward answer is that a moral argument is an argument dealing with moral issues, such as the permissibility of killing in certain circumstances. I call this the thin sense of ‘moral argument’. Arguments that we find in normative and applied ethics are almost invariably moral in this sense. However, they often fail to be moral in other respects. In this article, I discuss four ways in which morality can be absent from moral arguments in (...) the thin sense. If these arguments suffer from an absence of morality in at least one of these ways, they are not moral arguments in what I will call the thick sense of ‘moral argument’. Because only moral arguments in the thick sense could possibly qualify as proper responses to moral problems, the absence of morality in thin arguments means that these arguments will fail to give us a reason to do whatever they claim that we ought to do, even if we see no independent reason to question the truth of the premises or the logical validity of the argument. (shrink)
The aim of this article is twofold. First, I want to offer an introduction of and a comparison between three accounts of philistinism. Secondly, I show how the phenomenon of philistinism, a failure to speak for oneself, helps to develop an original perspective on Wittgenstein’s moral thought. It is often claimed that Wittgenstein’s personal ethics were quite unorthodox because he repeatedly seems to have supported destruction, war and slavery. I argue that, in the light of my discussion of philistinism, the (...) remarks upon which such conclusions are based should be read differently. (shrink)
The idea that thought and language can be clarified through logical methods seems problematic because, while thought and language are not always exact, logic (by its very nature) must be. According to Kuusela, ideal (ILP, represented by Frege and Russell) and ordinary language philosophy (OLP, represented by Strawson) offer opposed solutions to this problem, and Wittgenstein combines the advantages of both. I argue that, given Kuusela’s characterisation of OLP, Strawson was not an OLP’er. I suggest that, instead of seeing ILP (...) and OLP as opposed to one another, it is better to regard OLP as an extension of ILP. (shrink)
In this article, I discuss Gerbert Faure’s Vrije wil, moraal en het geslaagde leven (Free Will, Morality, and the Well-lived Life). I summarize and elucidate Faure’s argument. My criticisms are directed primarily at the first chapter of the book, in which Faure develops what he regards as a Strawsonian account of free will and moral responsibility. Faure denies that we have free will; I argue that Strawsonians should not deny this. Faure argues that, although we do not have free will, (...) it is often justified to hold others responsible, because we owe it to the victim(s) of a wrong to hold the perpetrator responsible; it is our moral duty. I argue that we only have a moral duty to hold perpetrators responsible if they are morally responsible. I also comment on the way in which Faure presents Strawson’s distinction between theory and practice. (shrink)
I argue that it is possible and useful for moral philosophy to provide surveyable representations of moral vocabulary. I proceed in four steps. First, I present two dominant interpretations of the concept “surveyable representation”. Second, I use these interpretations as a background against which I present my own interpretation. Third, I use my interpretation to support the claim that Wittgenstein’s “Lecture on Ethics” counts as an example of a surveyable representation. I conclude that, since the lecture qualifies as a surveyable (...) representation, it is possible to provide surveyable representations of moral vocabulary. Fourth, I argue that it is useful for contemporary moral philosophy to provide surveyable representations, because it may help to dissolve problems in current debates. I provide an example of such a debate, namely, the debate between cognitivists and non-cognivitists. (shrink)
Reactie op Martin Stokhof, 'Het einde van de filosofie? De uitdaging van het naturalisme vanuit een Wittgensteiniaans perspectief' (2017, Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 109/2, 171-198).
This article is an introduction to the metaphilosophical thought of the contemporary German philosopher Odo Marquard. He understands the philosopher’s competence as a competence in compensating for incompetence or, with a German neologism, as Inkompetenzkompensationskompetenz. I offer two interpretations of Marquard’s most famous notion. Both interpretations have been developed in order to answer a central question: if philosophers are incompetent, how can they live with their incompetence? The first interpretation goes back to Marquard’s early work. It leaves no option for (...) philosophers but to flee into dogmatism or skepticism. The second interpretation is inspired by Marquard’s pluralist later work. It advocates what I have called 'philosophy with a human face'. (shrink)
Introduction to our edited volume on Wittgensteinian ethics with papers by Oskari Kuusela, Edward Harcourt, Anne-Marie Christensen, Sabina Lovibond, Alexander Miller, Benjamin De Mesel, Cora Diamond, Lars Hertzberg, Jeremy Johnson, Craig Taylor, Alice Crary, Lynette Reid.
Michael Gill has argued that contemporary metaethics proceeds on the assumption that morality is uniform. I apply Gill’s diagnosis to the debate between cognitivism and non-cognitivism. I argue, on the basis of examples, that there is good reason to question the assumption that morality is semantically uniform. I describe the assumption as a symptom of what Wittgenstein has called the philosopher’s “craving for generality‘. I discuss several recent metaethical positions in which the question “Cognitivism or non-cognitivism?‘ appears as a false (...) dilemma. I conclude that these positions are still subject to the craving for generality. I defend a more radically Wittgensteinian approach to metaethics, in which the idea of family resemblances and an emphasis on differences between moral judgments are particularly important If morality is not necessarily to be thought of as semantically uniform, at least one important consequence follows. An omnipresent way of arguing in metaethics, namely arguing for cognitivism by arguing against non-cognitivism, becomes unavailable to the metaethicist. (shrink)
This volume offers a collective study of the work of P. F. Strawson (1919-2006) and an exploration of its relevance for current philosophical debates. It is the first book since Strawson's death to cover the full range of his philosophy, with chapters by world-leading experts about his lasting contributions to the philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, moral philosophy, and philosophical methodology. It aims to achieve a balance between exegesis of Strawson, critical engagement, and consideration of the reception and continuing value (...) of his work. It explores the intellectual relations between Strawson and some of his predecessors and contemporaries and it will be an indispensable source for scholars and students of twentieth-century philosophy and its influence in the twenty-first. (shrink)
Edited collection on Wittgensteinian ethics. With contributions by Oskari Kuusela, Edward Harcourt, Anne-Marie Christensen, Sabina Lovibond, Alexander Miller, Benjamin De Mesel, Cora Diamond, Lars Hertzberg, Jeremy Johnson, Craig Taylor, Alice Crary, Lynette Reid.
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