This book provides a comprehensive, systematic theory of moralresponsibility. The authors explore the conditions under which individuals are morally responsible for actions, omissions, consequences, and emotions. The leading idea in the book is that moralresponsibility is based on 'guidance control'. This control has two components: the mechanism that issues in the relevant behavior must be the agent's own mechanism, and it must be appropriately responsive to reasons. The book develops an account of both components. (...) The authors go on to offer a sustained defense of the thesis that moralresponsibility is compatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
In the paper, I defend the skeptical view that no one is ever morally responsible in the basic desert sense since luck universally undermines responsibility-level control. I begin in Section 1 by defining a number of different varieties of luck and examining their relevance to moralresponsibility. I then turn, in Section 2, to outlining and defending what I consider to be the best argument for the skeptical view--the luck pincer (Levy 2011). I conclude in Section 3 (...) by addressing Robert Hartman's (2017) numerous objections to the luck pincer. I argue that the luck pincer emerges unscathed and the pervasiveness of luck (still) undermines moralresponsibility. (shrink)
The concept of luck has played an important role in debates concerning free will and moralresponsibility, yet participants in these debates have relied upon an intuitive notion of what luck is. Neil Levy develops an account of luck, which is then applied to the free will debate. He argues that the standard luck objection succeeds against common accounts of libertarian free will, but that it is possible to amend libertarian accounts so that they are no more vulnerable (...) to luck than is compatibilism. But compatibilist accounts of luck are themselves vulnerable to a powerful luck objection: historical compatibilisms cannot satisfactorily explain how agents can take responsibility for their constitutive luck; non-historical compatibilisms run into insurmountable difficulties with the epistemic condition on control over action. Levy argues that because epistemic conditions on control are so demanding that they are rarely satisfied, agents are not blameworthy for performing actions that they take to be best in a given situation. It follows that if there are any actions for which agents are responsible, they are akratic actions; but even these are unacceptably subject to luck. Levy goes on to discuss recent non-historical compatibilisms, and argues that they do not offer a viable alternative to control-based compatibilisms. He suggests that luck undermines our freedom and moralresponsibility no matter whether determinism is true or not. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s (1962) “Freedom and Resentment” has provoked a wide range of responses, both positive and negative, and an equally wide range of interpretations. In particular, beginning with Gary Watson, some have seen Strawson as suggesting a point about the “order of explanation” concerning moralresponsibility: it is not that it is appropriate to hold agents responsible because they are morally responsible, rather, it is ... well, something else. Such claims are often developed in different ways, but one (...) thing remains constant: they meant to be incompatible with libertarian theories of moralresponsibility. The overarching theme of this paper is that extant developments of “the reversal” face a dilemma: in order to make the proposals plausibly anti-libertarian, they must be made to be implausible on other grounds. I canvas different attempts to articulate a “Strawsonian reversal”, and argue that none is fit for the purposes for which it is intended. I conclude by suggesting a way of clarifying the intended thesis: an analogy with the concept of funniness. The result: proponents of the “reversal” need to accept the difficult result that if we blamed small children, they would be blameworthy, or instead explain how their view escapes this result, while still being a view on which our blaming practices “fix the facts” of moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Most philosophers who study moralresponsibility have done so in isolation of the concept of truth. Here, I show that thinking about the nature of truth has profound consequences for discussions of moralresponsibility. In particular, by focusing on the very trivial nature of truth—that truth depends on the world and not the other way around—we can see that widely accepted counterexamples to one of the most influential incompatibilist arguments can be shown not only to be (...) false, but also impossible. (shrink)
Can experimental philosophy help us answer central questions about the nature of moralresponsibility, such as the question of whether moralresponsibility is compatible with determinism? Specifically, can folk judgments in line with a particular answer to that question provide support for that answer. Based on reasoning familiar from Condorcet’s Jury Theorem, such support could be had if individual judges track the truth of the matter independently and with some modest reliability: such reliability quickly aggregates as (...) the number of judges goes up. In this chapter, however, I argue, partly based on empirical evidence, that although non-specialist judgments might on average be more likely than not to get things right, their individual likelihoods fail to aggregate because they do not track truth with sufficient independence. (shrink)
Thomas Reid developed an important theory of freedom and moralresponsibility resting on the concept of agent-causation, by which he meant the power of a rational agent to cause or not cause a volition resulting in an action. He held that this power is limited in that occasions occur when one's emotions or other forces may preclude its exercise. John Martin Fischer has raised an objection – the not enough ‘Oomph’ objection – against any incompatibilist account of freedom (...) and moralresponsibility. In this essay I argue that Fischer's not enough ‘Oomph’ objection fails to provide any reasons for rejecting Reid's incompatibilist, agent-causation account of freedom and moralresponsibility. (shrink)
According to Dewey, we are responsible for our conduct because it is “ourselves objectified in action”. This idea lies at the heart of an increasingly influential deep self approach to moralresponsibility. Existing formulations of deep self views have two major problems: They are often underspecified, and they tend to understand the nature of the deep self in excessively rationalistic terms. Here I propose a new deep self theory of moralresponsibility called the Self-Expression account that (...) addresses these issues. The account is composed of two parts. The first part answers the question, What is a deep self? Theorists have tended to favor cognitive views that understand the deep self in terms of rationally formed evaluative judgment. I propose instead a conative view that says one’s deep self consists of a distinctive kind of pro-attitude, cares, and I provide an account of cares in terms of their distinctive psychological functional role. The second part answers the question, When does an action express one’s deep self? I criticize the agentially demanding conditions set out in existing views and propose a more minimalist alternative. I show that the Self-Expression account handles issues that bedeviled traditional deep self views, including how to explain moralresponsibility for spontaneous, out of character, and weak-willed actions. (shrink)
The Buddha taught that there is no self. He also accepted a version of the doctrine of karmic rebirth, according to which good and bad actions accrue merit and demerit respectively and where this determines the nature of the agent’s next life and explains some of the beneficial or harmful occurrences in that life. But how is karmic rebirth possible if there are no selves? If there are no selves, it would seem there are no agents that could be held (...) morally responsible for ‘their’ actions. If actions are those happenings in the world performed by agents, it would seem there are no actions. And if there are no agents and no actions, then morality and the notion of karmic retribution would seem to lose application. Historical opponents argued that the Buddha's teaching of no self was tantamount to moral nihilism. The Buddha, and later Buddhist philosophers, firmly reject this charge. The relevant philosophical issues span a vast intellectual terrain and inspired centuries of philosophical reflection and debate. This article will contextualise and survey some of the historical and contemporary debates relevant to moral psychology and Buddhist ethics. They include whether the Buddha's teaching of no-self is consistent with the possibility of moralresponsibility; the role of retributivism in Buddhist thought; the possibility of a Buddhist account of free will; the scope and viability of recent attempts to naturalise karma to character virtues and vices, and whether and how right action is to be understood within a Buddhist framework. (shrink)
This essay challenges the widely accepted principle that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. The author considers situations in which there are sufficient conditions for a certain choice or action to be performed by someone, So that it is impossible for the person to choose or to do otherwise, But in which these conditions do not in any way bring it about that the person chooses or acts as he (...) does. In such situations the person may well be morally responsible for what he chooses or does despite his inability to choose or to do otherwise. Finally the author considers certain suggestions for revising the principle he rejects or for replacing it with a principle of an altogether different kind. (shrink)
Every account of moralresponsibility has conditions that distinguish between the consequences, actions, or traits that warrant praise or blame and those that do not. One intuitive condition is that praiseworthiness and blameworthiness cannot be affected by luck, that is, by factors beyond the agent’s control. Several philosophers build their accounts of moralresponsibility on this luck-free condition, and we may call their views Luck-Free MoralResponsibility (LFMR). I offer moral and metaphysical arguments (...) against LFMR. First, I maintain that considerations of fairness that often motivate LFMR do not require its adoption. Second, I contend that LFMR has counterintuitive implications for the nature and scope of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness and that LFMR is vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum. Third, I state some common reasons for thinking that LFMR’s commitment to true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom is problematic, and I argue that if there are no such true counterfactuals and if LFMR is true, a person is praiseworthy and blameworthy at most for a tiny fraction of her actions. Fourth, I argue that proponents of LFMR cannot escape this skeptical cost by appealing to a different kind of counterfactual of freedom. Fifth, I develop an anti-skeptical motivation to affirm the idea that luck can affect moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument is that because self-creation is required to be truly morally responsible and self-creation is impossible, it is impossible to be truly morally responsible for anything. I contend that the Basic Argument is unpersuasive and unsound. First, I argue that the moral luck debate shows that the self-creation requirement appears to be contradicted and supported by various parts of our commonsense ideas about moralresponsibility, and that this ambivalence undermines the only reason that Strawson (...) gives for the self-creation requirement. Second, I argue that the self-creation requirement is so demanding that either it is an implausible requirement for a species of true moralresponsibility that we take ourselves to have or it is a plausible requirement of a species of true moralresponsibility that we have never taken ourselves to have. Third, I explain that Strawson overgeneralizes from instances of constitutive luck that obviously undermine moralresponsibility to all kinds of constitutive luck. (shrink)
Skepticism about moralresponsibility, or what is more commonly referred to as moralresponsibility skepticism, refers to a family of views that all take seriously the possibility that human beings are never morally responsible for their actions in a particular but pervasive sense. This sense is typically set apart by the notion of basic desert and is defined in terms of the control in action needed for an agent to be truly deserving of blame and praise. (...) Some moralresponsibility skeptics wholly reject this notion of moralresponsibility because they believe it to be incoherent or impossible. Others maintain that, though possible, our best philosophical and scientific theories about the world provide strong and compelling reasons for adopting skepticism about moralresponsibility. What all varieties of moralresponsibility skepticism share, however, is the belief that the justification needed to ground basic desert moralresponsibility and the practices associated with it—such as backward-looking praise and blame, punishment and reward (including retributive punishment), and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation—is not met. Versions of moralresponsibility skepticism have historically been defended by Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, d’Holbach, Priestley, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Clarence Darrow, B.F. Skinner, and Paul Edwards, and more recently by Galen Strawson, Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Neil Levy, Tamler Sommers, and Gregg D. Caruso. -/- Critics of these views tend to focus both on the arguments for skepticism about moralresponsibility and on the implications of such views. They worry that adopting such a view would have dire consequences for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law. They fear, for instance, that relinquishing belief in moralresponsibility would undermine morality, leave us unable to adequately deal with criminal behavior, increase anti-social conduct, and destroy meaning in life. Optimistic skeptics, however, respond by arguing that life without free will and basic desert moralresponsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. These optimistic skeptics argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for instance, would not be threatened. They further maintain that morality and moral judgments would remain intact. And although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, they argue that the imposition of sanctions could serve purposes other than the punishment of the guilty—e.g., it can also be justified by its role in incapacitating, rehabilitating, and deterring offenders. (shrink)
In Against MoralResponsibility, Bruce Waller launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. Waller argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moralresponsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, he contends, leaves no room (...) for moralresponsibility. Waller argues that moralresponsibility in all its forms--including criminal justice, distributive justice, and all claims of just deserts--is fundamentally unfair and harmful and that its abolition will be liberating and beneficial. What we really want--natural human free will, moral judgments, meaningful human relationships, creative abilities--would survive and flourish without moralresponsibility. In the course of his argument, Waller examines the origins of the basic belief in moralresponsibility, proposes a naturalistic understanding of free will, offers a detailed argument against moralresponsibility and critiques arguments in favor of it, gives a general account of what a world without moralresponsibility would look like, and examines the social and psychological aspects of abolishing moralresponsibility. Waller not only mounts a vigorous, and philosophically rigorous, attack on the moralresponsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition. (shrink)
It is clear that lack of awareness of the consequences of an action can undermine moralresponsibility and blame for these consequences. But when and how it does so is controversial. Sometimes an agent believing that the outcome might occur is excused because it seemed unlikely to her, and sometimes an agent having no idea that it would occur is nevertheless to blame. A low or zero degree of belief might seem to excuse unless the agent “should have (...) known better”, but it is unclear how to spell out this normative condition. -/- This chapter combines (a) an independently motivated account of responsibility, blame, and credit as grounded in a normal explanatory relation between agential qualities and objects of responsibility with (b) the familiar Strawsonian idea that moral blame and credit depend on the agent’s quality of will. The resulting explanatory quality of will condition on moralresponsibility is then further motivated by being shown to account for the effects on moral blame and credit of justifications, as well as of excuses and undermined control in cases not involving ignorance. -/- The explanatory quality of will condition is finally applied to cases involving various degrees of lack of awareness. Though this condition itself involves no awareness requirement, it is shown how it accounts for the degrees to which lack of awareness can excuse. It is also explained how lack of awareness fails as an excuse exactly when the agent should have known better and can be blamed for not doing so. (shrink)
It typically taken for granted that agents can be morally responsible for such things as, for example, the death of the victim and the capture of the murderer in the sense that one may be blameworthy or praiseworthy for such things. The primary task of a theory of moralresponsibility, it is thought, is to specify the appropriate relationship one must stand to such things in order to be morally responsible for them. I argue that this common approach (...) is problematic because it attempts to explain the way in which an agent can be morally responsible for something that is external to her, the agent. Since, I argue, everything that matters for moralresponsibility is internal to the agent, the accounts that emerge from this approach are committed to a particular form of moral luck. Instead, we should reject this form of moral luck, and with it, the possibility of moralresponsibility for objects external to the agent. We are, I argue, morally responsible only for our inner willings. Thus, a form of internalism about moralresponsibility is defended. (shrink)
This article distinguishes among and examines three different kinds of argument for the thesis that moralresponsibility and free action are each incompatible with the truth of determinism: straight manipulation arguments; manipulation arguments to the best explanation; and original-design arguments. Structural and methodological matters are the primary focus.
Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of (...) surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research. (shrink)
The author argued elsewhere that a necessary condition that John Fischer and Mark Ravizza offer for moralresponsibility is too strong and that the sufficient conditions they offer are too weak. This article is a critical examination of their reply. Topics discussed include blameworthiness, irresistible desires, moralresponsibility, reactive attitudes, and reasons responsiveness.
Should we conceive of corporations as entities to which moralresponsibility can be attributed? This contribution presents what we will call a political account of corporate moralresponsibility. We argue that in modern, liberal democratic societies, there is an underlying political need to attribute greater levels of moralresponsibility to corporations. Corporate moralresponsibility is essential to the maintenance of social coordination that both advances social welfare and protects citizens' moral entitlements. (...) This political account posits a special capacity of self-governance that corporations can intelligibly be said to possess. Corporations can be said to be "administrators of duty" in that they can voluntarily incorporate moral principles into their decision-making processes about how to conduct business. This account supplements and partly transforms earlier pragmatic accounts of corporate moralresponsibility by disentangling responsibility from its conventional linkages with accountability, blame and punishment. It thereby represents a distinctive way to defend corporate moralresponsibility and shows how Kantian thinking can be helpful in disentangling the problems surrounding the concept. (shrink)
Are individuals morally responsible for their implicit biases? One reason to think not is that implicit biases are often advertised as unconscious, ‘introspectively inaccessible’ attitudes. However, recent empirical evidence consistently suggests that individuals are aware of their implicit biases, although often in partial and inarticulate ways. Here I explore the implications of this evidence of partial awareness for individuals’ moralresponsibility. First, I argue that responsibility comes in degrees. Second, I argue that individuals’ partial awareness of their (...) implicit biases makes them (partially) morally responsible for them. I argue by analogy to a close relative of implicit bias: moods. (shrink)
Compatibilists about determinism and moralresponsibility disagree with one another about the bearing of agents’ histories on whether or not they are morally responsible for some of their actions. Some stories about manipulated agents prompt such disagreements. In this article, I call attention to some of the main features of my own “history-sensitive” compatibilist proposal about moralresponsibility, and I argue that arguments advanced by Michael McKenna and Manuel Vargas leave that proposal unscathed.
This essay argues that while the notion of collective responsibiility is incoherent if it is taken to be an application of the Kantian model of moralresponsibility to groups, it is coherent -- and important -- if formulated in terms of the moral reactions that we can have to groups that cause harm in the world. I formulate collective responsibility as such and in doing so refocus attention from intentionality to the production of harm.
This paper poses an original puzzle about the relationship between causation and moralresponsibility called The Moral Difference Puzzle. Using the puzzle, the paper argues for three related ideas: (1) the existence of a new sort of moral luck; (2) an intractable conflict between the causal concepts used in moral assessment; and (3) inability of leading theories of causation to capture the sorts of causal differences that matter for moral evaluation of agents’ causal contributions (...) to outcomes. (shrink)
Our aim in this paper is to raise a question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. Our question has rarely been raised previously. Among those who believe in the reality of human freedom, compatibilists have traditionally devoted their energies to providing an account that can avoid any commitment to the falsity of determinism while successfully accommodating a range of intuitive examples. Libertarians, in contrast, have aimed (...) to show that either physical indeterminacy or a certain kind of agent causation can find a place in the world for what they take to be genuine freedom. Few have considered whether moralresponsibility requires a commitment to conscious attitudes.2 Our question derives from a confluence of two sources. First, there is reason to think that conscious attitudes matter to theories of responsibility, either directly, as a result of the latter’s commitments, or indirectly, by virtue of the assumptions that they make about certain intuitive examples. Second, there is accumulating evidence suggesting that there aren’t any conscious mental states possessing the sorts of causal roles required of propositional attitudes. Since theorists of responsibility should in general be concerned to make their views compatible with plausible claims about the natural world, the implications of this data should be carefully considered. Our aim is therefore to motivate and begin exploring answers to the following conditional question: If it should turn out that there are no conscious attitudes, then what would be the implications of this fact (if any) for theories of responsibility? We propose that theorists who aren’t skeptics about moralresponsibility should examine their accounts, asking whether their theories (or the examples that motivate them) could survive the discovery that there are no conscious judgments, decisions, or evaluations. Since we take it that moral theorizing in general should operate with the weakest possible empirical assumptions about the natural world, such theorists should consider whether their accounts could be motivated in such a way as to be free of any commitment to the existence of conscious attitudes.. (shrink)
This paper defends a minimal desert thesis, according to which someone who is blameworthy for something deserves to feel guilty, to the right extent, at the right time, because of her culpability. The sentiment or emotion of guilt includes a thought that one is blameworthy for something as well as an unpleasant affect. Feeling guilty is not a matter of inflicting suffering on oneself, and it need not involve any thought that one deserves to suffer. The desert of a feeling (...) of guilt is a kind of moral propriety of that response, and it is a matter of justice. If the minimal desert thesis is correct, then it is in some respect good that one who is blameworthy feel guilty—there is some justice in that state of affairs. But if retributivism concerns the justification of punishment, the minimal desert thesis is not retributivist. Its plausibility nevertheless raises doubt about whether, as some have argued, there are senses of moralresponsibility that are not desert-entailing. (shrink)
Fundamental beliefs about free will and moralresponsibility are often thought to shape our ability to have healthy relationships with others and ourselves. Emotional reactions have also been shown to have an important and pervasive impact on judgments and behaviors. Recent research suggests that emotional reactions play a prominent role in judgments about free will, influencing judgments about determinism’s relation to free will and moralresponsibility. However, the extent to which affect influences these judgments is unclear. (...) We conducted a metaanalysis to estimate the impact of affect. Our meta-analysis indicates that beliefs in free will are largely robust to emotional reactions. (shrink)
In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moralresponsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moralresponsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
This introductory chapter discusses the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications--including the debate between Saul Smilansky's "illusionism," Thomas Nadelhoffer's "disillusionism," Shaun Nichols' "anti-revolution," and the "optimistic skepticism" of Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Tamler Sommers, and others.
What would be the consequence of embracing skepticism about free will and/or desert-based moralresponsibility? What if we came to disbelieve in moralresponsibility? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it cause nihilism and despair as some maintain? Or perhaps increase anti-social behavior as some recent studies have suggested (Vohs and Schooler 2008; Baumeister, Masicampo, and DeWall 2009)? (...) Or would it rather have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of what Bruce Waller calls the “moralresponsibility system” (2014, p. 4)? These questions are of profound pragmatic importance and should be of interest independent of the metaphysical debate over free will. As public proclamations of skepticism continue to rise, and as the mass media continues to run headlines announcing free will and moralresponsibility are illusions, we need to ask what effects this will have on the general public and what the responsibility is of professionals. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s work on moralresponsibility is well-known. However, an important implication of the landmark “Freedom and Resentment” has gone unnoticed. Specifically, a natural development of Strawson’s position is that we should understand being morally responsible as having externalistically construed pragmatic criteria, not individualistically construed psychological ones. This runs counter to the contemporary ways of studying moralresponsibility. I show the deficiencies of such contemporary work in relation to Strawson by critically examining the positions of John (...) Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, R. Jay Wallace, and Philip Pettit for problems due to individualistic assumptions. (shrink)
Seemingly one of the most prominent issues that divide theorists about free will and moralresponsibility concerns whether the ability to do otherwise is necessary for freedom and responsibility. I defend two claims in this paper. First, that this appearance is illusory: everyone thinks an ability to do otherwise is necessary for freedom and responsibility. The central issue is not whether the ability to do otherwise is necessary for freedom and responsibility but which abilities to (...) do otherwise are necessary. Second, I argue that we cannot determine which abilities are necessary until we have determined the nature and justification of moralresponsibility. Thus, theorizing about moralresponsibility ought to take pride of place in theorizing about free will. (shrink)
Typical incompatibilists about moralresponsibility and determinism contend that being basically morally responsible for a decision one makes requires that, if that decision has proximal causes, it is not deterministically caused by them. This article develops a problem for this contention that resembles what is sometimes called the problem of present (or cross-world) luck. However, the problem makes no reference to luck nor to contrastive explanation. This article also develops a solution.
Do laypeople think that moralresponsibility is compatible with determinism? Recently, philosophers and psychologists trying to answer this question have found contradictory results: while some experiments reveal people to have compatibilist intuitions, others suggest that people could in fact be incompatibilist. To account for this contradictory answers, Nichols and Knobe (2007) have advanced a ‘performance error model’ according to which people are genuine incompatibilist that are sometimes biased to give compatibilist answers by emotional reactions. To test for this (...) hypothesis, we investigated intuitions about determinism and moralresponsibility in patients suffering from behavioural frontotemporal dementia. Patients suffering from bvFTD have impoverished emotional reaction. Thus, the ‘performance error model’ should predict that bvFTD patients will give less compatibilist answers. However, we found that bvFTD patients give answers quite similar to subjects in control group and were mostly compatibilist. Thus, we conclude that the ‘performance error model’ should be abandoned in favour of other available model that best fit our data. (shrink)
Christopher Franklin argues that, despite appearances, everyone thinks that the ability to do otherwise is required for free will and moralresponsibility. Moreover, he says that the way to decide which ability to do otherwise is required will involve settling the nature of moralresponsibility. In this paper I highlight one point on which those usually called leeway theorists - i.e. those who accept the need for alternatives - agree, in contradistinction to those who deny that (...) the ability to do otherwise is needed for free will. And I explain why it falsifies both of Franklin’s claims. (shrink)
Examines the relevance of empirical studies of responsibility judgments for traditional philosophical concerns about free will and moralresponsibility. We argue that experimental philosophy is relevant to the traditional debates, but that setting up experiments and interpreting data in just the right way is no less difficult than negotiating traditional philosophical arguments. Both routes are valuable, but so far neither promises a way to secure significant agreement among the competing parties. To illustrate, we focus on three sorts (...) of issues. For illustration, we discuss an error theory for incompatibilist intuitions proposed by Eddy Nahmias and colleagues, the role that empirical studies might have in the assessment of manipulation arguments for incompatibilism, and the suggestion that empirical studies reveal that core criteria for moralresponsibility ought not to be applied invariantly across different sorts of cases. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s theory of moralresponsibility remains eminently influential. However, moral philosophers such as G. Watson and T.M. Scanlon have called into question it explanatory basis, which grounds moralresponsibility in human nature and interpersonal relationships. They demand a deeper normative explanation for when it is appropriate to modify or mollify the reactive attitudes. In this paper, following A. Sneddon, I argue that the best interpretation of Strawson is an externalistic one which construes moral (...)responsibility as an interpersonal social competence, as this approach uniquely satisfies Strawson’s demand that we justify the reactive attitudes from within the participant perspective. I then show that this is the only interpretation capable of preserving Strawson’s well-known excuse of being peculiarly unfortunate in one’s formative circumstances. (shrink)
In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. To properly assess what, if anything, these empirical advances can tell us about free will and moralresponsibility, we first need to get clear on the following questions: Is consciousness necessary for free will? If so, what (...) role or function must it play? Are agents morally responsible for actions and behaviors that are carried out automatically or without conscious control or guidance? Are they morally responsible for actions, judgments, and attitudes that are the result of implicit biases or situational features of their surroundings of which they are unaware? What about the actions of somnambulists or cases of extreme sleepwalking where consciousness is largely absent? Clarifying the relationship between consciousness and free will is imperative if we want to evaluate the various arguments for and against free will. For example, do compatibilist reasons- responsive and deep self accounts require consciousness? If so, are they threatened by recent developments in the behavior, cognitive, and neurosciences? What about libertarian accounts of free will? What powers, if any, do they impart to consciousness and are they consistent with our best scientific theories about the world? In this survey piece, I will outline and assess several distinct views on the relationship between consciousness and free will. (shrink)
Empirical evidence challenges many of the assumptions that underlie traditional philosophical and commonsense conceptions of human agency. It has been suggested that this evidence threatens also to undermine free will and moralresponsibility. In this paper, I will focus on the purported threat to moralresponsibility. The evidence challenges assumptions concerning the ability to exercise conscious control and to act for reasons. This raises an apparent challenge to moralresponsibility as these abilities appear to (...) be necessary for morally responsible agency. I will argue that this challenge collapses once the underlying conditions on moralresponsibility are specified in sufficient detail. I will argue, in other words, that the empirical evidence does not support a challenge to the assumption that we are, in general, morally responsible agents. In the final section, I will suggest that empirical research on human agency is nevertheless relevant to various questions about moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Is choice necessary for moralresponsibility? And does choice imply alternative possibilities of some significant sort? This paper will relate these questions to the argument initiated by Harry Frankfurt that alternative possibilities are not required for moralresponsibility, and to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza's extension of that argument in terms of guidance control in a causally determined world. I argue that attending to Frankfurt's core conceptual distinction between the circumstances that make an action unavoidable (...) and those that bring it about that the action is performed – a distinction emphasised in his recent restatement – provides a new route into an analysis of Frankfurt's argument by showing how it depends on a person's ‘decision to act’ involving the exercise of choice. The implicit reliance of Frankfurt's argument on this notion of choice, however, undermines his claim that the example of the counterfactual intervener strengthens the compatibilist case by providing a counter-example to the principle of alternative possibilities. I also argue that Frankfurt's reliance on the exercise of choice for moralresponsibility is also evident in the Fischer/Ravizza argument, and that a close analysis of both arguments shows that such exercise of choice is not available if causal determinism is true. (shrink)
By drawing on empirical evidence, Matt King and Peter Carruthers have recently argued that there are no conscious propositional attitudes, such as decisions, and that this undermines moralresponsibility. Neil Levy responds to King and Carruthers, and claims that their considerations needn’t worry theorists of moralresponsibility. I argue that Levy’s response to King and Carruthers’ challenge to moralresponsibility is unsatisfactory. After that, I propose what I take to be a preferable way of (...) dealing with their challenge. I offer an account of moralresponsibility that ties responsibility to consciously deciding to do X, as opposed to a conscious decision to do X. On this account, even if there are no conscious decisions, moralresponsibility won’t be undermined. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider a novel challenge to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza’s reasons-responsiveness theory of moralresponsibility. According to their view, agents possess the control necessary for moralresponsibility if their actions proceed from a mechanism that is moderately reasons-responsive. I argue that their account of moderate reasons-responsiveness fails to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for moralresponsibility since it cannot give an adequate account of the responsibility of individuals with (...) autism spectrum disorder. Empirical evidence suggests that autistic individuals demonstrate impairments in counterfactual thinking, and these impairments, I argue, are such that they cast doubt on Fischer and Ravizza’s construal of moderate reasons-responsiveness. I then argue that modifying the view in order to accommodate individuals with ASD forces them to defend a strong reasons-responsive account despite the fact that they explicitly deny that such an account can adequately characterize what it is to be morally responsible for one’s actions. (shrink)
Galen Strawson has published several versions of an argument to the effect that moralresponsibility is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. Few philosophers have been persuaded by the argument, which Strawson remarks is often dismissed “as wrong, or irrelevant, or fatuous, or too rapid, or an expression of metaphysical megalomania.” I offer here a two-part explanation of why Strawson’s argument has impressed so few. First, as he usually states it, the argument is lacking at least one (...) key premise. The premise in question concerns the very point on which Strawson and many of his contemporary opponents disagree. Strawson will persuade these opponents only when he convinces them of the truth of this crucial premise. Second, Strawson employs a striking conception of responsibility that has not generally been remarked upon. Many might accept that responsibility so conceived is impossible. But there is very different conception of responsibility that appears of great importance to us. To be thoroughly convincing, Strawson will have to show either that this second conception is inadequate or that his argument goes through even given this alternative conception. (shrink)
Many prominent accounts of free will and moralresponsibility make use of the idea that agents can be responsive to reasons. Call such theories Reasons accounts. In what follows, I consider the tenability of Reasons accounts in light of situationist social psychology and, to a lesser extent, the automaticity literature. In the ﬁrst half of this chapter, I argue that Reasons accounts are genuinely threatened by contemporary psychology. In the second half of the paper I consider whether such (...) threats can be met, and at what cost. Ultimately, I argue that Reasons accounts can abandon some familiar assumptions, and that doing so permits us to build a more empirically plausible picture of our agency. (shrink)
In large, impersonal moral orders many of us wish to maintain good will toward our fellow citizens only if we are reasonably sure they will maintain good will toward us. The mutual maintaining of good will, then, requires that we somehow communicate our intentions to one another. But how do we actually do this? The current paper argues that when we engage in moralresponsibility practices—that is, when we express our reactive attitudes by blaming, praising, and resenting—we (...) communicate a desire to maintain good will to those in the community we are imbedded in. Participating in such practices alone will not get the job done, though, for expressions of our reactive attitudes are often what economists call cheap talk. But when we praise and blame in cases of moral diversity, expressions of our reactive attitudes act as costly signals capable of solving our social dilemma. (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 moralresponsibility. There is cause for concern that a range of situationist findings are in tension with the reasons-responsiveness putatively required for free will and moralresponsibility. We develop and defend a response to the alleged situationist threat to free will and moralresponsibility 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)
Many philosophers endorse the idea that there can be no moralresponsibility without a moral community and thus hold that such responsibility is essentially interpersonal. In this paper, various interpretations of this idea are distinguished, and it is argued that no interpretation of it captures a significant truth. The popular view that moralresponsibility consists in answerability is discussed and dismissed. The even more popular view that such responsibility consists in susceptibility to the (...) reactive attitudes is also discussed, and it is argued that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
This article’s guiding question is about bullet biting: When should compatibilists about moralresponsibility bite the bullet in responding to stories used in arguments for incompatibilism about moralresponsibility? Featured stories are vignettes in which agents’ systems of values are radically reversed by means of brainwashing and the story behind the zygote argument. The malady known as “intuition deficit disorder” is also discussed.
In “Control, Responsibility, and Moral Assessment” Angela Smith defends her nonvoluntarist theory of moralresponsibility 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 moralresponsibility for the nonvoluntary, but also incorporates a reasonable control condition. (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 moralresponsibility. There is cause for concern that a range of situationist findings are in tension with the reasons-responsiveness putatively required for free will and moralresponsibility. We develop and defend a response to the alleged situationist threat to free will and moralresponsibility 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)