Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of will and compulsion collapse. This would threaten our ordinary notion of self-control and undermine our practice of holding each other responsible for moral failure. So a clear and plausible account of how weakness of will and self-control (...) are possible is of great practical significance.Taking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, JeanetteKennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sense distinction between weakness of will and compulsion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. She addresses with clarity and insight a range of important topics in moral psychology, such as the nature of valuing and desiring, conceptions of virtue, moral conflict, and the varieties of recklessness - and does so in terms which make their relations to each other and to the challenges of real life obvious. Agency and Responsibility concludes by testing the accounts developed of self-control, moral failure, and moral responsibility against the hard cases provided by acts of extreme evil. (shrink)
Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in (...) the literature, and how crucial is empathy, so described, to moral understanding and agency? I argue that an examination of moral thinking in high-functioning autistic people supports a Kantian rather than a Humean account of moral agency. (shrink)
The recent, influential Social Intuitionist Model of moral judgment (Haidt, Psychological Review 108, 814–834, 2001) proposes a primary role for fast, automatic and affectively charged moral intuitions in the formation of moral judgments. Haidt’s research challenges our normative conception of ourselves as agents capable of grasping and responding to reasons. We argue that there can be no ‘real’ moral judgments in the absence of a capacity for reflective shaping and endorsement of moral judgments. However, we suggest that the empirical literature (...) indicates a complex interplay between automatic and deliberative mental processes in moral judgment formation, with the latter constraining the expression and influence of moral intuitions. We therefore conclude that the psychological literature supports a normative conception of agency. (shrink)
We argue that companion friendship is not importantly marked by self-disclosure as understood in either of these two ways. One's close friends need not be markedly similar to oneself, as is claimed by the mirror account, nor is the role of private information in establishing and maintaining intimacy important in the way claimed by the secrets view. Our claim will be that the mirror and secrets views not only fail to identify features that are in part constitutive of close or (...) companion friendship, but that they miss the mark quite broadly and fail to capture anything significant and distinctive about the ways in which friendship has an impact on the self. The article will proceed as follows. In the first section we outline our account of the self in friendship. In the next two sections we examine the mirror and secrets views and develop our own view in counterpoint to these. In the final section we defend our own account by showing how it provides the governing conditions which do distinguish friendship from other kinds of relations between persons. (shrink)
We have argued here that to attribute criminal responsibility to psychopathic individuals is to ignore substantial and growing evidence that psychopathic individuals are significantly impaired in moral understanding. They do not appear to know why moral transgressions are wrong in the full sense required by the law. As morally blameless offenders, punishment as a basis for detention cannot be justified. Moreover, as there are currently no successful treatment programs for psychopathy, nor can detention be justified on grounds of treatment. Instead, (...) we argue detention on the grounds of self- defence, due to the severe and continuing threat posed by the psychopathic criminal. (shrink)
Metaethics has recently been confronted by evidence from cognitive neuroscience that tacit emotional processes play an essential causal role in moral judgement. Most neuroscientists, and some metaethicists, take this evidence to vindicate a version of metaethical sentimentalism. In this paper we argue that the ‘dual process’ model of cognition that frames the discussion within and without philosophy does not do justice to an important constraint on any theory of deliberation and judgement. Namely, decision-making is the exercise of a capacity for (...) agency. Agency, in turn, requires a capacity to conceive of oneself as temporally extended: to inhabit, in both memory and imagination, an autobiographical past and future. To plan, to commit to plans, and to act in accordance with previous plans requires a diachronic self, able to transcend the present moment. While this fact about agency is central to much of moral philosophy (e.g. in discussions of autonomy and moral responsibility) it is opaque to the dual process framework and those meta-ethical accounts which situate themselves within this model of cognition. We show how this is the case and argue for an empirically adequate account of moral judgement which gives sufficient role to memory and imagination as cognitive prerequisites of agency. We reconsider the empirical evidence, provide an alternative, agentive, interpretation of key findings, and evaluate the consequences for metaethics. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the existence of psychopaths undermines moral rationalism. I examine a recent empirically based argument for this claim and conclude that rationalist accounts of moral judgement and moral reasoning are perfectly compatible with the evidence cited.
We focus here on some familiar kinds of cases of conflict between friendship and morality, and, on the basis of our account of the nature of friendship, argue for the following two claims: first, that in some cases where we are led morally astray by virtue of a relationship that makes its own demands on us, the relationship in question is properly called a friendship; second, that relationships of this kind are valuable in their own right.
We have argued elsewhere that moral responsibility over time depends in part upon the having of psychological connections which facilitate forms of self-control. In this chapter we explore the importance of mental time travel - our ordinary ability to mentally travel to temporal locations outside the present, involving both memory of our personal past and the ability to imagine ourselves in the future - to our agential capacities for planning and control. We suggest that in many individuals with dissociative disorders, (...) forms of amnesia, or other frontal lobe damage, our capacity for mental time travel is impaired, resulting in commensurate losses to agency autonomy, and a forensic condition essential for holding persons responsible: in legal terms, the capacity for mens rea. (shrink)
In this chapter we draw comparisons between Kass’ views on the normative authority of repugnance and social intuitionist accounts of moral judgement which are similarly sceptical about the role of reasoned reflection in moral judgement. We survey the empirical claims made in support of giving moral primacy to intuitions generated by emotions such as repugnance, as well as some common objections. We then examine accounts which integrate intuition and reflection, and argue that plausible accounts of wisdom are in tension with (...) Kass’ claim that our inarticulable emotional responses can be the expression of deep wisdom. We conclude that while repugnance and other emotions have a role to play in informing deliberation and judgement, we have reason to be cautious in giving them normative authority. Affective responses alone cannot discharge the burden of justification for moral judgement and are just one tool relied upon by those we consider wise. (shrink)
:The spread of demands by physicians and allied health professionals for accommodation of their private ethical, usually religiously based, objections to providing care of a particular type, or to a particular class of persons, suggests the need for a re-evaluation of conscientious objection in healthcare and how it should be regulated. I argue on Kantian grounds that respect for conscience and protection of freedom of conscience is consistent with fairly stringent limitations and regulations governing refusal of service in healthcare settings. (...) Respect for conscience does not entail that refusal of service should be cost free to the objector. I suggest that conscientious objection in medicine should be conceptualized and treated analogously to civil disobedience. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Choice theorists such as George Ainslie and Gene Heyman argue that the drug-seeking behaviour of addicts is best understood in the same terms that explain everyday choices. Everyday choices, they claim, aim to maximise the reward from available incentives. Continuing drug-use is, therefore, what addicts most want given the incentives they are aware of but they will change their behaviour if and when better incentives become available. This model might explain many typical cases of addiction, but there are hard (...) cases that pose a problem. In these hard cases the addicted individual does not cease using drugs in the face of consequences that are so adverse it is implausible that they are unaware of more rewarding paths of action. These cases force the choice theorist into a dilemma: either these addicts? drug use does not count as action and so is best described by a neurobiological model, or reference to ?reward? in these cases means merely ?motivated? and so provides no explanatory power. We propose a different model of motivation that takes self-conception into account. We show how that can better explain the hard cases of addiction and also inform our understanding of recovery and self-control. (shrink)
It seems to be a truism that whenever we do something - and so, given the omnipresence of trying (Hornsby 1980), whenever we try to do something - we want to do that thing more than we want to do anything else we can do (Davidson 1970). However, according to Frog, when we have will power we are able to try not to do something that we ‘really want to do’. In context the idea is clearly meant to be that (...) what we really want to do and what we most want to do are one and the same. But how is this meant to be so much as possible? It seems to require that our desire not to do what we most want to do is both our strongest desire and not our strongest desire. And that is a blatant contradiction. This is the so-called ‘paradox of self-control’ (Mele 1987). The aim of our paper is to explain how to make sense of the story of Frog and Toad. (shrink)
In this chapter we focus on the structure of close personal relations and diagnose how these relationships are disrupted by addiction. We draw upon Peter Strawson’s landmark paper ‘Freedom and Resentment’ (2008, first published 1962) to argue that loved ones of those with addiction veer between, (1) reactive attitudes of blame and resentment generated by disappointed expectations of goodwill and reciprocity, and (2) the detached objective stance from which the addicted person is seen as less blameworthy but also as less (...) fit for ordinary interpersonal relationships. We examine how these responses, in turn, shape the addicted person’s view of themselves, their character and their capacities, and provide a negative narrative trajectory that impedes recovery. We close with a consideration of how these effects might be mitigated by adopting less demanding variations of the participant stance. (shrink)
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a condition in which a person appears to possess more than one personality, and sometimes very many. Some recent criminal cases involving defendants with DID have resulted in "not guilty" verdicts, though the defense is not always successful in this regard. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Stephen Behnke have argued that we should excuse DID sufferers from responsibility, only if at the time of the act the person was insane (typically delusional); (...) otherwise the presumption should be that persons with DID are indeed responsible for their actions. We find their interpretation of DID and of the way in which the requirements for criminal insanity relate to this condition worrying and likely to result in injustice to DID sufferers. Our thesis is that persons with DID cannot be responsible for their actions if the usual features of the condition are present. A person with DID is a single person in the grip of a very serious mental disorder. By focusing on the features of DID which have, as we argue, the effect of deluding the patient, we try to show that such a person is unable to fulfill the ordinary conditions of responsible agency (namely, autonomy and self-control). (shrink)
In this chapter I argue that there is a normative aspect to self-control that is not captured by the purely procedural account to be drawn from dual process theories of cognition – which we only uncover when we consider what self-control is for and why it is valuable. For at least a significant sub-group of addicts their loss of control over their drug use may not be due to a lack or depletion of cognitive resources. Rather it may be that (...) they have little confidence in their ability to exert control over their circumstances and shape the life they would value having and the person they would value being. (shrink)
A person suffering a mental illness or disorder may differ dramatically from his or her previous well self. Family and close friends who knew the person before the onset of illness tend to regard the illness as obscuring their loved one's true self and see the goal of treatment as the restoration of that self. ‘He is not really like this,’ they will say with increasing desperation. Treatment teams and others, who have no acquaintance with the person when well, respond (...) to what they see in front of them and do sometimes make harmful judgments of character based on the person's presentation when ill. (shrink)
Social persons routinely tell themselves and others richly elaborated autobiographical stories filled with details about deeds, plans, roles, motivations, values, and character. Saul, let us imagine, is someone who once sailed the world as a young adventurer, going from port to port and living a gypsy existence. In telling his new acquaintance, Jess, of his former exotic life, he shines a light on his present character and this may guide to some extent their interaction here and now. Perhaps Jess also (...) spent time at one of these port locations; perhaps their paths might even have crossed. They might be drawn into recounting some common events that indeed do establish a common link. Did they visit a certain famous landmark? Did they meet up at the same bars? And so on. When we open up to friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and close others through the stories we tell them, we do so by revealing bits of ourselves. (shrink)
Recent studies reveal some of the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in drug addiction. This prompts some theorists to claim that drug addiction diminishes responsibility. Stephen Morse however rejects this claim. Morse argues that these studies show that drug addiction involves neither compulsion, coercion, nor irrationality. He also adds that addicted people are responsible for becoming addicted and for failing to take measures to manage their addiction. After summarizing relevant neuroscience of addiction literature, this chapter engages critically with Morse to argue that (...) a subgroup of addicted people does meet plausible criteria for compulsion, coercion, or irrationality; that few addicted people are fully responsible for becoming addicted; and that some addicted people can be at least partly excused for failing to manage their addiction. Pickard and Lacey’s “responsibility without blame” approach is also suggested as a fruitful basis for future work in this field. (shrink)
Mental time travel is the ability to simulate alternative pasts and futures. It is often described as the ability to project a sense of self in the service of diachronic agency. It requires not only semantic representation but affective sampling of alternative futures. If people lose this ability for affective sampling their sense of self is diminished. They have less of a self to project hence are compromised as agents. If they cannot “feel the future” they cannot imaginatively inhabit it (...) and hence their agency is compromised. The extent of such losses and consequent impairments to moral agency can be matters of degree. (shrink)
The condition known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is metaphysically strange. Can there really be several distinct persons operating in a single body? Our view is that DID sufferers are single persons with a severe mental disorder. In this paper we compare the phenomenology of dissociation between personality states in DID with certain delusional disorders. We argue both that the burden of proof must lie with those who defend the metaphysically extravagant Multiple Persons view and (...) that there is little theoretical motivation to yield to that view in light of the fact that the core symptoms of DID bear remarkable similarity to the symptoms of these other disorders where no such extravagance is ever seriously entertained. (shrink)
In a 2004 paper, Greene and Cohen predicted that neuroscience would revolutionise criminal justice by presenting a mechanistic view of human agency that would change people’s intuitions about retributive punishment. According to their theory, this change in intuitions would in turn lead to the demise of retributivism within criminal justice systems. Their influential paper has been challenged, most notably by Morse, who has argued that it is unlikely that there will be major changes to criminal justice systems in response to (...) neuroscience. In this paper we commence a tentative empirical enquiry into the claims of these theorists, focusing on Australian criminal justice. Our analysis of Australian cases is not supportive of claims about the demise of retributive justice, and instead suggests the possibility that neuroscience may be used by the courts to calibrate retributive desert. It is thus more consistent with the predictive claims of Morse than of Greene and Cohen. We also consider evidence derived from interviews with judges, and this leads us to consider the possibility of a backlash against evidence of brain impairment. Finally we note that change in penal aims may be occurring that is unrelated to developments in neuroscience. (shrink)
In this article, I explore the implications of Karsten Stueber's account of imaginative resistance, particularly as it relates to the phenomenon of moral dumbfounding described by Jonathan Haidt and colleagues. I suggest that Stueber's account allows us to redescribe the phenomenon as a failure of the folk psychological project of interpretation and so to challenge Haidt's metaethical conclusions. I close by considering some implications for moral deliberation and judgment in those, such as autistic people, whose interpretive capacities are impaired.
Effective agency, according to contemporary Kantians, requires a unity of purpose both at a time, in order that we may eliminate conflict among our motives, and over time, because many of the things we do form part of longer-term projects and make sense only in the light of these projects and life plans. Call this the unity of agency thesis. This thesis can be regarded as a normative constraint on accounts of personal identity and indeed on accounts of what it (...) is to have the life of a person in the broad, rather than narrowly biological sense. It is also a fundamental condition of social life that persons within society fulfill a range of longitudinal roles: parenthood is one such obvious example, as are teachers, health professionals, engineers, artists, and many others. The fulfillment of these and other valuable social roles requires that agents have the capacity to rationally conceive of themselves as engaged in these roles and subject to the demands of them. To be unable to fulfill any such longitudinal social roles is to have a life deficient in value. The unity of agency is thus, we argue, something we rationally strive for, and something to be morally promoted. Psychiatric states that undermine the unity of agency are morally and rationally disvaluable. Using the example of dissociation, we explain how one such state may have this undermining or disruptive effect on the unity of agency. The therapeutic ends for psychiatry in conditions involving such states are thus seen more globally as the restoration of effective agency, that is, unified agency. (shrink)
Substance use and misuse occurs at a very high rate among people with mental health problems and the relationship between the two conditions is complex. In this paper we argue that treatment of substance use in dual diagnosis clients must begin from an understanding of the losses suffered by those with mental illness. We outline the fundamental condition of effective agency, unified agency, which is disrupted in mental illness and show how this is needed to secure access to central social (...) and moral goods such as continuing employment and satisfying relationships. We argue that drug use will be disvaluable primarily in so far as it too prevents access to this set of agential goods and focuses the agent on synchronic well-being to the exclusion of diachronic well-being. The goals and methods of treatment for dual diagnosis patients should thus reflect the primary impairment to unified agency. (shrink)
Kant claimed both that "moral feeling is the capacity to be affected by a moral judgment" and that moral motivation is motivation by principle. What are the psychological mechanism that could enable principles to motivate? This chapter develops in more detail a suggestion made elsewhere by the author that posits a connection between susceptibility to the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and moral motivation of a broadly Kantian kind. The chapter argues that the possession of principles is constitutively connected to one’s (...) status as a diachronic self and to one’s rational agentive capacities. If psychopaths are insensitive to cognitive dissonance, they cannot have or be motivated by principles. This provides an explanation of the failure of moral motivation in psychopaths that differs from the usual focus on lack of empathy. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is, by process of elimination, to elucidate and defend an account of how ordinary people act on their values. I will be making both a descriptive claim about our psychology and a further claim about its effectiveness and rational status. I want to suggest that the way in which most of us in fact put our values into practice is, over time, preferable to the ways which initially seem required or at least desirable.
What is required of the interpreter of disordered minds and what can we learn from the process? Jonathan Glover's book focuses on human interpretation and its role in psychiatry. His hope is that a more careful and sensitive exploration of minds that are very different from our own, will assist us to answer a range of important questions about human agency, identity and responsibility. In this commentary I will focus on the process and purpose of interpretation and expand on some (...) of the moral issues that arise out of the interpretive challenges posed by mental disorders. (shrink)
Pickard (2012) claims that the neurobiological or disease model of addiction hinders the recovery of people because it undermines their feeling of self-efficacy and agency. Sub- stance users are “not aided by being treated as victims of a neurobiological disease, as opposed to agents of their own recovery” (40).Although Pickard acknowledges that claims of powerlessness or loss of agency can have a functional role in the self-narratives of substance users in excusing them from blame, she primarily focuses on the negative (...) effects of the diseasemodel on the recovery of substance users. Preliminary evidence from in-depth interviews with heroin-dependent participants in our current cohort study on addiction and moral identity supports Pickard’s claims in part: Substance users describe grades of control, psychological distress, and loss of options, and an ambivalent attitude toward their belief in self-efficacy. However the interviews also provide points of critique. While Pickard is right to dismiss the more extreme claims of proponents of the disease model—namely, that drug use in addicts is literally compelled—user responses suggest that an understanding of the neurobiology of addiction might in some respects support rather than undermine a sense of agency. Moreover, there is reason to suppose that the relation be- tween substance use and psychological distress is not as straightforward as Pickard claims. In this respect we believe the debate must become more nuanced and move beyond a simple opposition between the disease model and the rational choice model endorsed by Pickard. (shrink)