In this book Michael McKenna advances a new theory of moral responsibility, one that builds upon the work of P. F. Strawson. As McKenna demonstrates, moral responsibility can be explained on analogy with a conversation. The relation between a morally responsible agent and those who hold her morally responsible is similar to the relation between a speaker and her audience. A responsible agent's actions are bearers of meaning--agent meaning--just as a speaker's utterances are bearers of speaker meaning. Agent meaning is (...) a function of the moral quality of the will with which the agent acts. Those who hold an agent morally responsible for what she does do so by responding to her as if in a conversation. By responding with certain morally reactive attitudes, such as resentment or indignation, they thereby communicate their regard for the meaning taken to be revealed in that agent's actions. It is then open for the agent held responsible to respond to those holding her responsible by offering an apology, a justification, an excuse, or some other response, thereby extending the evolving conversational exchange.The conversational theory of moral responsibility that McKenna develops here accepts two features of Strawson's theory: that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal--so that being responsible must be understood by reference to the nature of holding responsible--and that the moral emotions are central to holding responsible. While upholding these two aspects of Strawson's theory, McKenna's theory rejects a further Strawsonian thesis, which is that holding morally responsible is more fundamental or basic than being morally responsible. On the conversational theory, the conditions for holding responsible are dependent on the nature of the agent who is responsible. So holding responsible cannot be more basic than being responsible. Nevertheless, the nature of the agent who is morally responsible is to be understood in terms of sensitivity to those who would make moral demands of her, thereby holding her responsible. Being responsible is therefore also dependent on holding responsible. Thus, neither being nor holding morally responsible is more basic than the other. They are mutually dependent. (shrink)
Manipulation arguments for incompatibilism all build upon some example or other in which an agent is covertly manipulated into acquiring a psychic structure on the basis of which she performs an action. The featured agent, it is alleged, is manipulated into satisfying conditions compatibilists would take to be sufficient for acting freely. Such an example used in the context of an argument for incompatibilism is meant to elicit the intuition that, due to the pervasiveness of the manipulation, the agent does (...) not act freely and is not morally responsible for what she does. It is then claimed that any agent's coming to be in the same psychic state through a deterministic process is no different in any relevant respect from the pertinent manner of manipulation. Hence, it is concluded that compatibilists' proposed sufficient conditions for free will and moral responsibility are inadequate, and that free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. One way for compatibilists to resist certain manipulation arguments is by appealing to historical requirements that, they contend, relevant manipulated agents lack. While a growing number of compatibilists advance an historical thesis, in this paper, I redouble my efforts to show, in defense of nonhistorical compatibilists like Harry Frankfurt, that there is still life left in a nonhistorical view. The historical compatibilists, I contend, have fallen shy of discrediting their nonhistorical compatibilist rivals. (shrink)
A familiar claim in the free will debate is that the freedom in dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists is limited to the type required for an agent to deserve blame for moral wrongdoing, and to deserve it in a sense that is basic. In this paper, I seek a rationale for this claim, offer an explanation of basic desert, and then argue that the free will debate can persist even when divorced from basic desert.
This is an excellent book. It is innovative in scope and carefully argued throughout. The book recasts the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists as a normative debate about the conditions under which it is fair to hold a person morally responsible. Wallace’s strategy is to explain moral agency by examining the stance of holding morally responsible. On Wallace’s account, moral agency does not require the ability to do otherwise; this would invite legitimate incompatibilist suspicions about free will and determinism. Rather, (...) what is required is the rational capacity to grasp and act upon distinctively moral reasons. (shrink)
If my ability to react freely is constrained by forces beyond my control, am I still morally responsible for the things I do? The question of whether, how and to what extent we are responsible for our own actions has always been central to debates in philosophy and theology, and has been the subject of much recent research in cognitive science. And for good reason- the views we take on free will affect the choices we make as individuals, the moral (...) judgments we make of others, and they will inform public policy. Michael McKenna's text introduces this important subject with remarkable clarity, offering the first comprehensive overview of both incompatibilist and compatibilist stances. He begins by motivating both viewpoints, then provides classical accounts of each before giving students an in-depth examination of current scholarship in the free will debate. Topics covered include: the nature of free will the nature of determinism the nature of moral responsibility arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism arguments of the compatibility of free will and determinism libertarian theories of free will and moral responsibility compatibilist theories of free will and moral responsibility hard determinist and hard incompatibilist theories. (shrink)
In this article we survey six recent developments in the philosophical literature on free will and moral responsibility: (1) Harry Frankfurt's argument that moral responsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise; (2) the heightened focus upon the source of free actions; (3) the debate over whether moral responsibility is an essentially historical concept; (4) recent compatibilist attempts to resurrect the thesis that moral responsibility requires the freedom to do otherwise; (5) the role of the control condition in free (...) will and moral responsibility, and finally (6) the debate centering on luck. (shrink)
In “Control, Responsibility, and Moral Assessment” Angela Smith defends her nonvoluntarist theory of moral responsibility against the charge that any such view is shallow because it cannot capture the depth of judgments of responsibility. Only voluntarist positions can do this since only voluntarist positions allow for control. I argue that Smith is able to deflect the voluntarists’ criticism, but only with further resources. As a voluntarist, I also concede that Smith’s thesis has force, and I close with a compromise position, (...) one that allows for direct moral responsibility for the nonvoluntary, but also incorporates a reasonable control condition. (shrink)
How should we understand basic desert as a justification for blaming? Many philosophers account for free will by reference to the sort of moral responsibility that involves a blameworthy person deserving blame in a basic sense of desert; free will just is the control condition for this sort of moral responsibility. But what precisely does basic desert come to, and what is it about blame that makes it the thing that a blameworthy person deserves? As it turns out, there are (...) challenges in attempting to understand basic desert for blame. One concerns whether the only good in harming a person by blaming her is instrumental. If so, there may be reason to reject desert-based conceptions of blame. In this paper, I will develop an account of basically deserved blame. In doing so, I will also defend the controversial thesis that the harm involved in blaming can be good in a way that is not merely instrumental. (shrink)
Is moral responsibility essentially historical? Consider two agents qualitatively identical with respect to all of their nonhistorical properties just prior to the act of A-ing. Is it possible that, due only to differences in their respective histories, when each A-s only one A-s freely and is morally responsible for doing so? Nonhistorical theorists say “no.” Historical theorists say “yes.” Elsewhere, I have argued on behalf of philosophers like Harry G. Frankfurt that nonhistorical theorists can resist the historical theorists’ case against (...) them, and that, therefore, a nonhistorical thesis remains a live option. Nevertheless, I have remained officially agnostic in this debate, as I acknowledge the pull of the competing considerations speaking on behalf of each view. In what follows, I turn from defending the nonhistorical position to fashioning a new historical theory, a relatively modest one that captures what is especially gripping about the kinds of examples that seem to commend an historical conclusion. (shrink)
Harry Frankfurt dramatically shaped the debates over freedom and responsibility by arguing that the sort of freedom germane to responsibility does not involve the freedom to do otherwise. His argument turns upon an example meant to disprove the Principle of Alternative Possibilities: A person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise. Debate over Frankfurt's argument has turned almost exclusively on the success of the example meant to defeat it. But there is more (...) to Frankfurt's argument than the example in question, and this is not widely recognized. Inattention to these other aspects of Frankfurt's argument has distorted the force of it. In this paper I shall explore avenues for both refuting and advancing Frankfurt's argument that look beyond the examples. These further considerations invite us to think in broader terms about moral responsibility's nature and the sort of freedom required for it. (shrink)
In this paper I offer from a source compatibilist's perspective a critical discussion of "Four Views on Free Will" by John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, and Manuel Vargas. Sharing Fischer's semi-compatibilist view, I propose modifications to his arguments while resisting his coauthors' objections. I argue against Kane that he should give up the requirement that a free and morally responsible agent be able to do otherwise (in relevant cases). I argue against Pereboom that his famed manipulation argument be (...) resisted by contending that the agents in it are free and responsible. And I also argue against Vargas by challenging the sense in which his revisionist thesis differs from a position like Fischer's and mine. I close by reflecting on the nature of desert. All seem to assume it is central to the debate, but what is it? (shrink)
P.F. Strawson defends compatibilism by appeal to our natural commitment to the interpersonal community and the reactive attitudes. While Strawson''s compatibilist project has much to recommend it, his account of moral agency appears incomplete. Gary Watson has attempted to fortify Strawson''s theory by appeal to the notion of moral address. Watson then proceeds to argue, however, that Strawson''s theory of moral responsibility (so fortified) would commit Strawson to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. Watson also argues that the reactive (...) attitudes do not lend unequivocal support to Strawsonian compatibilism and that the reactive attitudes are sometimes sensitive to considerations which suggest an incompatibilist or skeptical diagnosis. Watson attempts to provide a Strawsonian defense against these difficulties, but he ultimately concludes that the skeptical threats raised against Strawsonian compatibilism cannot be sufficiently silenced. I believe that Watson has done Strawsonian compatibilism a great service by drawing upon the notion of moral address. In this paper I attempt to defend the Strawsonian compatibilist position, as Watson has cast it, against the problems raised by Watson. I argue against Watson that Strawson''s theory of responsibility, as well as the notion of moral address, does not commit the Strawsonian to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. I also argue that Watson misinterprets the point of certain reactive attitudes and thereby wrongly assumes that these attitudes are evidence against Strawsonian compatibilism. (shrink)
The situationist movement in social psychology has caused a considerable stir in philosophy. Much of this was prompted by the work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. Both contended that familiar philosophical assumptions about the role of character in the explanation of action were not supported by experimental results. Most of the ensuing philosophical controversy has focused upon issues related to moral psychology and ethical theory. More recently, the influence of situationism has also given rise to questions regarding free will (...) and moral responsibility. There is cause for concern that a range of situationist findings are in tension with the reasons-responsiveness putatively required for free will and moral responsibility. We develop and defend a response to the alleged situationist threat to free will and moral responsibility that we call pessimistic realism. We conclude on an optimistic note, exploring the possibility of strengthening our agency in the face of situational influences. (shrink)
The article presents the nature of shared intentions and collective responsibility in simultaneous discussion of individualism, which views that collective agents and shared intentions are to be analyzed in relation between individual agents who are members of the collectives. It discusses as well the agent meaning theory that states that an agent moves against the interpretive background of action evaluation shared by the agent and the moral community.
Recently, Neil Levy has proposed that an agent can acquire freedom-relevant agential abilities by virtue of the conditions in which she finds herself, and in this way, can be thought of as partially constituted by those conditions. This can be so even if the agent is completely ignorant of the relevant environmental conditions, and even if these conditions play no causal role in what the agent does. Drawing upon these resources, Levy argues that Frankfurt-style examples are not cogent. In this (...) paper, we explain why his argument fails. (shrink)
_ Source: _Page Count 36 The situationist movement in social psychology has caused a considerable stir in philosophy. Much of this was prompted by the work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. Both contended that familiar philosophical assumptions about the role of character in the explanation of action were not supported by experimental results. Most of the ensuing philosophical controversy has focused upon issues related to moral psychology and ethical theory. More recently, the influence of situationism has also given rise (...) to questions regarding free will and moral responsibility. There is cause for concern that a range of situationist findings are in tension with the reasons-responsiveness putatively required for free will and moral responsibility. We develop and defend a response to the alleged situationist threat to free will and moral responsibility that we call pessimistic realism. We conclude on an optimistic note, exploring the possibility of strengthening our agency in the face of situational influences. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen contends that nonresponsibility transfers across deterministic relations. Suppose it does. If the facts of the past and the laws of nature entail every truth about what one does, and no one is even in part morally responsible for the past and the laws, then no one is even in part morally responsible for what one does. This argument, the Direct Argument, has drawn various critics, who have attempted to produce counterexamples to its core inference principle. This article (...) considers two notable efforts, one by John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza and another by David Widerker. It shows that neither is sufficient to reject the Direct Argument. The article then proceeds to challenge the argument in a novel fashion. Van Inwagen has not given us good reason to think that the principle in question has an adequate anchor in our inferential practices, especially in light of the dialectical context with the compatibilist. Hence, it is not the compatibilists' burden to produce counterexamples to it. Rather, it is van Inwagen's burden to produce relevant confirming instances of it. (shrink)
Kadri Vihvelin has recently argued that between compatibilists and incompatibilists, the incompatibilists have a greater dialectical burden than compatibilists. According to her, both must show that free will is possible, but beyond this the incompatibilists must also show that no deterministic worlds are free will worlds. Thus, according to Vihvelin, so long as it is established that free will is possible, all the compatibilist must do is show that the incompatibilists' arguments are ineffective. I resist Vihvelin's assessment of the dialectical (...) burdens of compatibilists and incompatibilists, as well as her assessment of the best arguments for incompatibilism. (shrink)
In this paper I critically assess Derk Pereboom’s book, Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life. In it, I resist Pereboom’s manipulation argument for incompatibilism and his indictment of desert-based accounts of moral responsibility.
Some people, they like to go out dancing And other peoples, they have to work And there’s even some evil mothers Well they’re gonna tell you that everything is just dirt You know, that women, never really faint And that villains always blink their eyes And that, children are the only ones who really blush And that, life is just to die. And, everyone who had a heart, They wouldn’t turn around and break it And that everyone who played a (...) part Oh wouldn’t turn around and hate it. – Lou Reed, “Sweet Jane”. (shrink)
What is it to be morally responsible for something? Recent philosophical work reveals considerable disagreement on the question. Indeed, some theorists claim to distinguish several varieties of moral responsibility, with different conditions that must be satisfied if one is to bear responsibility of one or another of these kinds. -/- Debate on this point turns partly on disagreement about the kinds of responses made appropriate when one is blameworthy or praiseworthy. It is generally agreed that these include "reactive attitudes" such (...) as resentment and gratitude, but theorists disagree about the nature of these attitudes. They dispute the connections between moral responsibility, desert, and the justification of punishment as well. -/- Many theorists take it that, whatever the appropriate responses are, they are responses to an agent's "quality of will," but there is no consensus on what this comes to. Are the agent's beliefs about the moral status of her behavior what matter, or is it what she cares about, or what she judges important? -/- This volume presents twelve original essays from participants in these debates. The contributors include prominent established figures as well as influential younger philosophers. A substantive introduction by the editors surveys recent debates and situates the contributions within it. (shrink)
Patrick Todd has recently fashioned a novel argument for incompatibilism, the Moral-Standing Zygote Argument. Todd considers much-discussed cases in which a manipulator causes an agent in a deterministic scenario to act morally wrongly from compatibilist-friendly conditions for freedom and moral responsibility. The manipulator, Todd contends, does not have the standing to blame the manipulated agent, and the best explanation for this is that incompatibilism is true. This is why the manipulated agent is not blameworthy. In this paper, I counter Todd (...) on behalf of the compatibilist, arguing that the best explanation for the manipulator's lack of moral standing to blame is due to the manipulator's intending to cause the manipulated agent to do wrong. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend my book Conversation and Responsibility in response to three critics: Julia Driver, David Shoemaker, and Manuel Vargas. Driver raises questions about my account of private blame. Shoemaker finds problems with my account of quality of will. And Vargas questions the conversational nature of my account.
The Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World wishes to devote this special issue of Philosophy in the Contemporary World to themes in the philosophy of Michael Krausz. This is only fitting. For years now, Michael Krausz has been at the heart of our society’s liveliest exchanges. At many of our conferences, our group meetings, and in the pages of this journal, Krausz’s keen insights, probing challenges, supportive suggestions, and inspiring theses have helped us to shape our own views. More (...) so, his patient, elegant, and clear-minded presentations to us of his views have proved for many of us to be invaluable additions to our philosophical educations. (shrink)