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)
Are psychopaths morally responsible? Should we argue with them? Remonstrate with them, blame them, sometimes even praise them? Is it worth trying to change them, or should we just try to prevent them from causing harm? In this book, Jim Baxter aims to find serious answers to these deep philosophical questions, drawing on contemporary insights from psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience and law. MoralResponsibility and the Psychopath is the first sustained, book-length philosophical work on this important and fascinating topic, (...) and will be of deep interest and importance to researchers in these fields – not to mention anyone who has had to interact with a psychopath in their everyday life. (shrink)
Some are blameless for posing a threat to the live of another because they are not morally responsible for being a threat. Others are blameless in spite of their responsibility. On what has come to be known as the "moralresponsibility account" of liability to defensive killing, it is such responsibility, rather than blameworthiness, for threatening another that renders one liable to defensive killing. Moreover, one's lack of responsibility for being a threat grounds one's nonliability (...) to defensive killing. In "Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense" (1994), I offered an early formulation and defense of such an account. In Section I of this chapter, I renew my defense of the claim that it is impermissible to kill a passive nonresponsible threat in self-defense. In Section II, I renew my defense of the claim that it is permissible to kill a blameless but morally responsible threat in self-defense. (shrink)
We might describe the philosophical issue of human freedom and moralresponsibility as an existential metaphysical problem. Problems of this kind are not just a matter of theoretical interest and curiosity: They address issues that we care about and that affect us. They are, more specifically, relevant to the significance and value that we attach to our lives and the way that we lead them. According to the orthodox view, there is a tidy connection between skepticism and pessimism. (...) Skepticism threatens a wide range of interests and concerns that themselves rest on the foundation of our self-conception as responsible moral agents. From this perspective, whereas skepticism licenses a degree of pessimism about our human predicament, the defeat of skepticism serves to vindicate optimism. In recent years this orthodox view of the relationship between skepticism and pessimism has been challenged. It has been argued, for example, that skepticism may be defended in much more optimistic terms. While we have reason to accept skepticism, we have no reason to draw any bleak or depressing consequences from this. Another way of severing the orthodox connection between skepticism and pessimism is to reject skepticism but deny that this will serve to secure or salvage any unqualified form of optimism. This chapter reviews and contrasts these various positions and approaches, beginning with an account of P. F. Strawson’s particularly influential statement of the relationship between the skeptical challenge and pessimism. (shrink)
We are responsible not only for what we think and feel but for what others do and for what we would have done. This book expands and updates the original attributionist theory of responsibility and applies it to pressing contemporary issues such as collective responsibility, leaders’ responsibility for their followers’ acts, and addiction.
Unwitting omissions pose a challenge for theories of moralresponsibility. For commonsense morality holds many unwitting omitters morally responsible for their omissions (and for the consequences thereof), even though they appear to lack both awareness and control. For example, some people who leave dogs trapped in their cars outside on a hot day (see Sher 2009), or who forget to pick something up from the store as they promised (see Clarke 2014) seem to be blameworthy for their omissions. (...) And yet, if moralresponsibility requires awareness of one’s omission and of its moral significance, as well as control, then it would appear that the unwitting protagonists of these cases are not, in fact, morally responsible for their omissions. In this paper, we consider, and ultimately reject, a number of influential views that try to solve this problem, including skepticism about responsibility for such omissions, a view we call the “decision tracing” view that grounds responsibility for such omissions in previous exercises of conscious agency, and “attributionist” views that ground responsibility for such omissions in the value judgments or other aspects of the agents’ selves. We propose instead a new tracing view that grounds responsibility for unwitting omissions in past opportunities to avoid them, where having such opportunities requires general awareness of the risk of such an omission, but not an exercise of agency, in contrast to the decision tracing view. We argue that the view can better accommodate cases, and fits well with the most plausible conception of the kind of control required for responsibility. (shrink)
Introduction: The metaphysics of responsibility and philosophy of education -- Moralresponsibility, authenticity, and the problem of manipulation -- A novel perspective on the problem of authenticity -- Forward-looking authenticity in the internalism/externalism debate -- Authentic education, indoctrination, and moralresponsibility -- Moralresponsibility, hard incompatibilism, and interpersonal relationships -- On the significance of moralresponsibility and love -- Love, commendability, and moral obligation -- Love, determinism, and normative education.
When a person performs or fails to perform a morally significant action, we sometimes think that a particular kind of response is warranted. Praise and blame are perhaps the most obvious forms this reaction might take. For example, one who encounters a car accident may be regarded as worthy of praise for having saved a child from inside the burning car, or alternatively, one may be regarded as worthy of blame for not having used one's mobile phone to call for (...) help. To regard such agents as worthy of one of these reactions is to ascribe moralresponsibility to them on the basis of what they have done or left undone. (These are examples of other-directed ascriptions of responsibility. The reaction might also be self-directed, e.g., one can recognize oneself to be blameworthy). Thus, to be morally responsible for something, say an action, is to be worthy of a particular kind of reaction —praise, blame, or something akin to these—for having performed it.[1.. (shrink)
We are strongly inclined to believe in moralresponsibility - the idea that certain human agents truly deserve moral praise or blame for some of their actions. However, recent philosophical discussion has put this natural belief under suspicion, and there are important reasons for thinking that moralresponsibility is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism, therefore potentially rendering it an impossibility. Presenting the major arguments for scepticism about moralresponsibility, and subjecting them to (...) sustained and penetrating critical analysis, _Moral Responsibility_ lays out the intricate dialectic involved in these issues in a helpful and accessible way. A well-written and lively account, the book then goes on to suggest a way in which scepticism can be avoided, arguing that excessive pre-eminence given to the will might lie at its root. Offering an alternative to this scepticism, Carlos Moya shows how a cognitive approach to moralresponsibility that stresses the importance of belief would rescue our natural and centrally important faith in the reality of moralresponsibility. (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)
When many people are involved in an activity, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint who is morally responsible for what, a phenomenon known as the ‘problem of many hands.’ This term is increasingly used to describe problems with attributing individual responsibility in collective settings in such diverse areas as public administration, corporate management, law and regulation, technological development and innovation, healthcare, and finance. This volume provides an in-depth philosophical analysis of this problem, examining the notion of (...)moralresponsibility and distinguishing between different normative meanings of responsibility, both backward-looking and forward-looking. Drawing on the relevant philosophical literature, the authors develop a coherent conceptualization of the problem of many hands, taking into account the relationship, and possible tension, between individual and collective responsibility. This systematic inquiry into the problem of many hands pertains to discussions about moralresponsibility in a variety of applied settings. (shrink)
Cover -- Half Title -- Title Page -- Copyright Page -- Table of Contents -- List of Contributors -- Preface -- Foreword -- Introduction -- Chapter 1 Alternate Possibilities and MoralResponsibility -- Chapter 2 Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities -- Chapter 3 Blameworthiness and Frankfurt's Argument Against the Principle of Alternative Possibilities -- Chapter 4 In Defense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities: Why I Don't Find Frankfurt's Argument Convincing -- Chapter 5 Responsibility, Indeterminism and Frankfurt-style (...) Cases: A Reply to Mele and Robb -- Chapter 6 Classical Compatibilism: Not Dead Yet -- Chapter 7 Bbs, Magnets and Seesaws: The Metaphysics of Frankfurt-style Cases -- Chapter 8 MoralResponsibility without Alternative Possibilities -- Chapter 9 Freedom, Foreknowledge and Frankfurt -- Chapter 10 Source Incompatibilism and Alternative Possibilities -- Chapter 11 Robustness, Control, and the Demand for Morally Significant Alternatives: Frankfurt Examples with Oodles and Oodles of Alternatives -- Chapter 12 Alternate Possibilities and Reid's Theory of Agent-causation -- Chapter 13 Responsibility and Agent-causation -- Chapter 14 Soft Libertarianism and Flickers of Freedom -- Chapter 15 'Ought' Implies 'Can', Blameworthiness, and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities -- Chapter 16 The Moral Significance of Alternate Possibilities -- Chapter 17 The Selling of Joseph - A Frankfurtian Interpretation -- Chapter 18 Some Thoughts Concerning PAP -- Bibliography -- Index. (shrink)
This paper sets out and defends an account of free action and explores the relation between free action and moralresponsibility. Free action is analyzed as a certain kind of uncompelled action. The notion of compulsion is explicated in detail, And several forms of compulsion are distinguished and compared. It is argued that contrary to what is usually supposed, A person may be morally responsible for doing something even if he did not do it freely. On the basis (...) of the account of free action, It is also argued that freedom and determinism are compatible and that, Though a person is morally responsible for doing something only if he could have done otherwise, Determinism does not entail that no one ever can, In the relevant sense, Do otherwise. The concluding part of the paper suggests that, If the account of the relation between free action and moralresponsibility is correct, Then the class of actions for which we bear moralresponsibility is significantly wider than a great many people suppose. (shrink)
Most people would agree that a small child, or a cognitively impaired adult, is less responsible for their actions, good or bad, than an unimpaired adult. But how do we explain that difference, and how far can anyone be praised or blamed for what they have done? In this fascinating introduction, Matthew Talbert explores some of the key questions shaping current debates about moralresponsibility, including: What is free will, and is it required for moralresponsibility? (...) Are we responsible for the unforeseen consequences of our actions? Is it fair to blame people for doing what they believe is right? And are psychopaths open to blame? As Talbert argues, we are morally responsible for our actions when they are related to us in particular ways: when our actions express our true selves, for example, or when we exercise certain kinds of control over them. It is because we bear these relationships to our actions that we are open to praise and blame. _Moral Responsibility_ will be an important resource for students and researchers in ethics, moral psychology, and philosophy of agency and of great interest to all those wishing to understand an important aspect of our moral practices. (shrink)
In The Stubborn System of MoralResponsibility (2015), Bruce Waller sets out to explain why the belief in individual moralresponsibility is so strong. He begins by pointing out that there is a strange disconnect between the strength of philosophical arguments in support of moralresponsibility and the strength of philosophical belief in moralresponsibility. While the many arguments in favor of moralresponsibility are inventive, subtle, and fascinating, Waller points (...) out that even the most ardent supporters of moralresponsibility acknowledge that the arguments in its favor are far from conclusive; and some of the least confident concerning the arguments for moralresponsibility—such as Van Inwagen—are most confident of the truth of moralresponsibility. Thus, argues Waller, whatever the verdict on the strength of philosophical arguments for moralresponsibility, it is clear that belief in moralresponsibility—whether among philosophers or the folk—is based on something other than philosophical reasons. -/- He goes on to argue that there are several sources for the strong belief in moralresponsibility, but the following four are particularly influential: First, moralresponsibility is based in a powerful “strike back” emotion that we share with other animals. Second, there is a deep-rooted “belief in a just world”—a belief that, according to Waller, most philosophers reject when they consciously consider it, but which has a deep nonconscious influence on what we regard as just treatment and which provides subtle (but mistaken) support for belief in moralresponsibility. Third, there is a pervasive moralresponsibility system—extending over criminal justice as well as “common sense”—that makes the truth of moralresponsibility seem obvious, and makes challenges to moralresponsibility seem incoherent. Finally, there is the enormous confidence we have in the power of reason, which mistakenly leads us to believe that our conscious, rational, and critically reflective selves are constantly guiding our behavior in accordance with our deep values. -/- In these comments, I would like to discuss the many points of agreement I have with Waller, providing along the way additional fuel for his skeptical fire (i.e., his moralresponsibility skepticism and his skeptical analysis of the source of our strong belief in moralresponsibility). I will also discuss, however, my one main point of disagreement—i.e., his desire to preserve the conception of free will. Waller believes free will can “flourish” in the absence of moralresponsibility (see Ch.8), while I maintain they that the variety of free will that is of central philosophical and practical importance is the sort required for moralresponsibility in a particular but pervasive sense. This sense of moralresponsibility is set apart by the notion of basic desert and is purely backward-looking and non-consequentialist (see Pereboom 2001, 2014; Caruso and Morris, forthcoming). Understood this way, the sort of free will at issue in the historical debate is a kind of power or ability an agent must possess in order to justify certain kinds of desert-based judgments, attitudes, or treatments in response to decisions or actions that the agent performed or failed to perform. (shrink)
In the paper, I try to cast some doubt on traditional attempts to define, or explicate, moralresponsibility in terms of deserved praise and blame. Desert-based accounts of moralresponsibility, though no doubt more faithful to our ordinary notion of moralresponsibility, tend to run into trouble in the face of challenges posed by a deterministic picture of the world on the one hand and the impact of moral luck on human action on (...) the other. Besides, grounding responsibility in desert seems to support ascriptions of pathological blame to agents trapped in moral dilemmas as well as of excess blame in cases of joint action. Desert is also notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to determine (at least with sufficient precision). And, finally, though not least important, recent empirical research on people’s responsibility judgments reveals our common-sense notion of responsibility to be hopelessly confused and easily manipulated. So it may be time to rethink our inherited theory and practice of moralresponsibility. Our theoretical and practical needs may be better served by a less intractable, more forward-looking notion of responsibility. The aim of the paper is to contrast the predominant, desert-based accounts of moralresponsibility with their rather unpopular rival, the consequence- based accounts, and then show that the latter deserve more consideration than usually granted by their opponents. In the course of doing so, I assess, and ultimately reject, a number of objections that have been raised against consequentialist accounts of moralresponsibility: that it (i) doesn’t do justice to our common-sense theory and practice of responsibility; (ii) ties responsibility too closely to influenceability, thereby exposing itself to the charge of counter-intuitivity; (iii) assigns undeserved responsibility (praise, blame) to agents; (iv) confuses ‘being responsible’ with ‘holding responsible’‚ and (v) provides the wrong-kind-of-reason for praise and blame. My negative and positive case may not add up to a knockdown argument in favor of revising our ordinary notion of responsibility. As long as the considerations adduced succeed in presenting the consequentialist alternative as a serious contender to a pre-arranged marriage between moralresponsibility and desert, however, I’m happy to rest my case. (shrink)
This book has three goals. The first is to demonstrate that the modern, distinctly Kantian, notion of moralresponsibility is incoherent by virtue of the way it fuses free will and blameworthiness. The second is to develop an alternative notion of moralresponsibility that separates causal responsibility from blameworthiness and views both as relative to the boundaries of our moral community. The third is to establish a framework for arguing openly about our moral (...)responsibility for particular kinds of harm. (shrink)
Frankfurt has attacked the principle that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise, And he has thereby sought to undermine the traditional debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists. The role that the principle plays in this debate is clarified. Frankfurt's type of argument is then assessed for its implications concerning both the principle and the debate. It is argued that the debate, Even if not the principle, May well emerge intact.
In this brief concluding chapter we first wish to present the overall argument of the book in a concise, nontechnical way. We hope this will provide a clear view of the argument. We shall then point to some of the distinctive--and attractive--features of our approach. Finally, we shall offer some preliminary thoughts about extending the account of moralresponsibility to apply to emotions.
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)
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)
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)
In the contemporary moralresponsibility debate, most theorists seem to be giving accounts of responsibility in the ‘desert-entailing sense’. Despite this agreement, little has been said about the notion of desert that is supposedly entailed. In this paper I propose an understanding of desert sufficient to help explain why the blameworthy and praiseworthy deserve blame and praise, respectively. I do so by drawing upon what might seem an unusual resource. I appeal to so-called Fitting-Attitude accounts of value (...) to help inform a conception of desert or merit, one that can be usefully applied to discussions of moralresponsibility. I argue that the view, which I call, Desert as Fittingness (DAF), merits additional attention. I do so by making two claims: First, that it does better than extant Fitting Attitude accounts of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness; second, that it has an initial plausibility with respect to informing a general account of desert. While these reasons are insufficient to show the view is true, they do make the case for taking the view seriously. (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)
According to Michael Zimmerman, no interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal captures a significant truth. He raises several worries about the Strawsonian view that moralresponsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes and claims that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. He outlines three problems. First, the existence of self-reactive attitudes may be incompatible with the interpersonal nature (...) of moralresponsibility. Secondly, Zimmerman questions the significance of the interpersonal nature of moralresponsibility, according to the Strawsonian view. Thirdly, he argues that that view may be taken to suggest the wrong kind of priority relation between ‘P is morally responsible’ and ‘it is appropriate to adopt some reactive attitude toward P’. I discuss each of these problems in turn and conclude that Strawsonians can respond to all three problems raised by Zimmerman. The Strawsonian view supports a significant interpretation of the idea that moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: 1. This paper argues that Epicurus had a notion of moralresponsibility based on the agent’s causal responsibility, as opposed to the agent’s ability to act or choose otherwise; that Epicurus considered it a necessary condition for praising or blaming an agent for an action, that it was the agent and not something else that brought the action about. Thus, the central question of moralresponsibility was whether the agent was the, or a, cause (...) of the action, or whether the agent was forced to act by something else. Actions could be attributed to agents because it is in their actions that the agents, qua moral beings, manifest themselves. 2. As a result, the question of moral development becomes all important. The paper collects and discusses the evidence for Epicurus views on moral development, i.e. (i) on how humans become moral beings and (ii) on how humans can become morally better. It becomes clear that Epicurus envisaged a complex web of hereditary and environmental factors to shape the moral aspect of a human being. 3. In line with Epicurus’ theory of moralresponsibility and moral development, Epicurus ethics does not have the function of developing or justifying a moral system that allows for the effective allocation of praise and blame. Rather, for him the function of ethics – and in fact of the whole of philosophy – is to give everyone a chance to morally improve. (shrink)
Various authors have argued that progress in the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric sciences might threaten the commonsense understanding of how the mind generates behavior, and, as a consequence, it might also threaten the commonsense ways of attributing moralresponsibility, if not the very notion of moralresponsibility. In the case of actions that result in undesirable outcomes, the commonsense conception—which is reflected in sophisticated ways in the legal conception—tells us that there are circumstances in which the agent (...) is entirely and fully responsible for the bad outcome and circumstances in which the agent is not at all responsible for the bad outcome. (shrink)
The autors focuse on the problem of moralresponsibility in H. Jonas' ethics of social consequences. While by Jonas the attention is paid mainly to global moralresponsibility, in the consequentialist ethics the individual, and social levels of moralresponsibility of moral subject are intertwinned.
Michael Zimmerman has recently argued against the twofold Strawsonian claim that there can be no moralresponsibility without a moral community and that, as a result, moralresponsibility is essentially interpersonal. I offered a number of objections to Zimmerman’s view, to which Zimmerman responded. In this article, I respond to Zimmerman’s responses to my criticisms.
I argue against two of the most influential contemporary theories of moralresponsibility: those of Harry Frankfurt and John Martin Fischer. Both propose conditions which are supposed to be sufficient for direct moralresponsibility for actions. (By the term direct moralresponsibility, I mean moralresponsibility which is not traced from an earlier action.) Frankfurt proposes a condition of 'identification'; Fischer, writing with Mark Ravizza, proposes conditions for 'guidance control'. I argue, using (...) counterexamples, that neither is sufficient for direct moralresponsibility. -/- My counterexample cases are based on recent research in psychology which reveals many surprising causes of our actions. Some of this research comes from the field of situationist social psychology; some from experiments which reveal the influence of automatic processes in our actions. Broadly, I call such causes 'subverting' when the agent would not identify with her action, if she knew all the causes of the action. When an action has subverting causes, the agent is not directly morally responsible for it, even though she may meet the conditions specified by Frankfurt and Fischer. -/- I also criticise the theories of Eddy Nahmias and John Doris, who have both engaged specifically with the threats posed to moralresponsibility by situationist research. Against Doris and Nahmias, I argue that their conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient for direct moralresponsibility. -/- My final objective is to argue that there are many everyday actions for which we mistakenly hold agents morally responsible. I review evidence that there are many everyday actions which have subverting causes. Many of those are actions for which we currently hold agents morally responsible. But I argue that, in many of those same actions, the agents are not in fact morally responsible – they bear neither direct nor traced moralresponsibility. (shrink)
Through critical examination of three main contemporary approaches to describing moralresponsibility, this book illustrates why philosophers must take into account the relationship between retrospective moralresponsibility and desert of praise or blame. The author advances the moral attitude account, whereby desert of praise and blame depends on the agent’s moral attitudes in response to moral reasons, and retrospective moralresponsibility results from expressions of those attitudes in overt behavior.
I argue that we are sometimes morally responsible for having and using (or not using) our concepts, despite the fact that we generally do not choose to have them or have full or direct voluntary control over how we use them. I do so by extending an argument of Angela Smith's; the same features that she says make us morally responsible for some of our attitudes also make us morally responsible for some of our concepts. Specifically, like attitudes, concepts can (...) be (a) conceptually and rationally connected to our evaluative judgments, (b) in principle subject to rational revision (reasons‐responsive), and (c) the basis for actual and potential moral assessments of people that we have good reasons to endorse. Thus, we are open to moral appraisal on the basis of having and using (or not using) our concepts when they reflect our evaluative judgments, though even then it is not always appropriate to praise or blame us on that basis. (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)
Many theorists writing about moralresponsibility accept that voluntary control is necessary for responsibility. Call such theorists volitionists. Recently, volitionism has been called into question by theorists I call nonvolitionists. Yet neither volitionists nor nonvolitionists have carefully articulated a clear volitionist thesis, nor have they sufficiently explained the concept of voluntary control that somehow seems connected to volitionism. I argue that attempts to explain the volitionist thesis, voluntary control, and their relation are more problematic than have previously (...) been recognized. Instead, I recommend understanding volitionism in terms of intentional actions and omissions. This understanding has several benefits. It clarifies the debate and its parameters, it avoids the problematic notion of voluntary control while relying on the clearer notion of intentional action, and it highlights that the debate between volitionists and nonvolitionists essentially concerns the nature and scope of obligations. As a result, understanding volitionism in terms of intentional actions and omissions can help breathe new life into the volitionist debate. (shrink)
The question of responsibility plays a critical role not only in our attempts to resolve social and political problems, but in our very conceptions of what those problems are. Who, for example, is to blame for apartheid in South Africa? Is the South African government responsible? What about multinational corporations that do business there? Will uncovering the "true facts of the matter" lead us to the right answer? In an argument both compelling and provocative, Marion Smiley demonstrates how attributions (...) of blame—far from being based on an objective process of factual discovery—are instead judgments that we ourselves make on the basis of our own political and social points of view. She argues that our conception of responsibility is a singularly modern one that locates the source of blameworthiness in an individual's free will. After exploring the flaws inherent in this conception, she shows how our judgments of blame evolve out of our configuration of social roles, our conception of communal boundaries, and the distribution of power upon which both are based. The great strength of Smiley's study lies in the way in which it brings together both rigorous philosophical analysis and an appreciation of the dynamics of social and political practice. By developing a pragmatic conception of moralresponsibility, this work illustrates both how moral philosophy can enhance our understanding of social and political practices and why reflection on these practices is necessary to the reconstruction of our moral concepts. (shrink)
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)
Roboethics is a recently developed field of applied ethics which deals with the ethical aspects of technologies such as robots, ambient intelligence, direct neural interfaces and invasive nano-devices and intelligent soft bots. In this article we look specifically at the issue of (moral) responsibility in artificial intelligent systems. We argue for a pragmatic approach, where responsibility is seen as a social regulatory mechanism. We claim that having a system which takes care of certain tasks intelligently, learning from (...) experience and making autonomous decisions gives us reasons to talk about a system (an artifact) as being “responsible” for a task. No doubt, technology is morally significant for humans, so the “responsibility for a task” with moral consequences could be seen as moralresponsibility. Intelligent systems can be seen as parts of socio-technological systems with distributed responsibilities, where responsible (moral) agency is a matter of degree. Knowing that all possible abnormal conditions of a system operation can never be predicted, and no system can ever be tested for all possible situations of its use, the responsibility of a producer is to assure proper functioning of a system under reasonably foreseeable circumstances. Additional safety measures must however be in place in order to mitigate the consequences of an accident. The socio-technological system aimed at assuring a beneficial deployment of intelligent systems has several functional responsibility feedback loops which must function properly: the awareness and procedures for handling of risks and responsibilities on the side of designers, producers, implementers and maintenance personnel as well as the understanding of society at large of the values and dangers of intelligent technology. The basic precondition for developing of this socio-technological control system is education of engineers in ethics and keeping alive the democratic debate on the preferences about future society. (shrink)
We study whether robots can satisfy the conditions of an agent fit to be held morally responsible, with a focus on autonomy and self-control. An analogy between robots and human groups enables us to modify arguments concerning collective responsibility for studying questions of robot responsibility. We employ Mele’s history-sensitive account of autonomy and responsibility to argue that even if robots were to have all the capacities required of moral agency, their history would deprive them from autonomy (...) in a responsibility-undermining way. We will also study whether humans and technological artifacts like robots can form hybrid collective agents that could be morally responsible for their actions and give an argument against such a possibility. (shrink)
In Moral philosophy meets social psychology, Gilbert Harman argues that social psychology can educate folk morality to prevent us from committing the ‘fundamental attribution error,’ i.e. ‘the error of ignoring situational factors and overconfidently assuming that distinctive behaviour or patterns of behaviour are due to an agent’s distinctive character traits’ (Harman, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 99, 315–331, 1999). An overview of the literature shows that while situationists unanimously agree with Harman on this point, they disagree on whether we (...) also tend to commit a kind of fundamental attribution error with respect to moralresponsibility and blame. Do we also tend to ignore situational factors and overconfidently assume that people are morally responsible and blameworthy for their distinctive patterns of wrongful behaviour? Very few scholars have addressed this issue, and none has ever given a comprehensive account of moralresponsibility and blame from a situationist perspective. In this paper, I argue that situationist social psychology impugns subjective theories of responsibility and blame which focus on the agent’s inner states and supports an objective theory—namely, the standard of the reasonable person. I defend this standard as a tool for moral appraisal, and then I refute the common misperception that this approach lets most perpetrators off the hook and poses a threat to society. (shrink)
What conditions on a person’s knowledge must be satisfied in order for them to be morally responsible for something they have done? The first two decades of the twenty-first century saw a surge of interest in this question. Must an agent, for example, be aware that their conduct is all-things-considered … Continue reading Epistemic Conditions of MoralResponsibility →.