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)
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 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)
This paper argues that "moral luck", understood as a susceptibility of moral desert to lucky or unlucky outcomes, does not exist. The argument turns on the claim that epistemic inquiry is an indissoluble part of moralresponsibility, and that judgment on the moral decision making of others should and can adjust for this fact; test cases which aim to isolate moral dilemmas from epistemic consideration misrepresent our moral experience. If the phenomena believed by (...) some philosophers to exemplify the need to admit moral luck as part of their explanation are analysed in the light of this insight, the case for "moral luck" dissolves. (shrink)
An empirical study of people's intuitions about freedom of the will. We show that people tend to have compatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more concrete, emotional way but that they tend to have incompatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more abstract, cognitive way.
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)
Thought experiments have played a central role in philosophical methodology, largely as a means of elucidating the nature of our concepts and the implications of our theories.1 Particular attention is given to widely shared “folk” intuitions – the basic untutored intuitions that the layperson has about philosophical questions.2 The folk intuition is meant to underlie our core metaphysical concepts, and philosophical analysis is meant to explicate or sometimes refine these naïve concepts. Consistency with the deliverances of folk intuitions is a (...) sign that the philosopher is making contact with his object of interest. In order to explore folk concepts, people are often asked to provide their intuitions about a state of affairs in some alternate universe or possible world, one that differs in particular, precise ways from the way things are in the actual world. Here we provide evidence that people’s intuitions about moralresponsibility sometimes diverge across worlds even when the facts about these worlds are the same. Which world one considers actual affects at least some philosophical judgments, suggesting that it is not just possible worlds to which our intuitions are tied. We will present several possible explanations for the asymmetry we have identified, and we’ll consider some implications for philosophical intuition. (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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
Manipulation arguments for incompatibilism all build upon some example or other in which an agent is covertly manipulated into acquiring a psychic structure on the basis of which she performs an action. The featured agent, it is alleged, is manipulated into satisfying conditions compatibilists would take to be sufficient for acting freely. Such an example used in the context of an argument for incompatibilism is meant to elicit the intuition that, due to the pervasiveness of the manipulation, the agent does (...) not act freely and is not morally responsible for what she does. It is then claimed that any agent's coming to be in the same psychic state through a deterministic process is no different in any relevant respect from the pertinent manner of manipulation. Hence, it is concluded that compatibilists' proposed sufficient conditions for free will and moralresponsibility are inadequate, and that free will and moralresponsibility are incompatible with determinism. One way for compatibilists to resist certain manipulation arguments is by appealing to historical requirements that, they contend, relevant manipulated agents lack. While a growing number of compatibilists advance an historical thesis, in this paper, I redouble my efforts to show, in defense of nonhistorical compatibilists like Harry Frankfurt, that there is still life left in a nonhistorical view. The historical compatibilists, I contend, have fallen shy of discrediting their nonhistorical compatibilist rivals. (shrink)
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)
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.
The principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), making the ability to do otherwise a necessary condition for moralresponsibility, is supposed by Harry Frankfurt, John Fischer, and others to succumb to a peculiar kind of counterexample. The paper reviews the main problems with the counterexample that have surfaced over the years, and shows how most can be addressed within the terms of the current debate. But one problem seems ineliminable: because Frankfurt''s example relies on a counterfactual intervener to preclude (...) alternatives to the person''s action, it is not possible for it to preclude all alternatives (intervention that is contingent upon a trigger cannot bring it about that the trigger never occurred). This makes it possible for the determined PAPist to maintain that some pre-intervention deviation is always available to ground moralresponsibility.In reply, the critic of PAP can examine all the candidate deviations and argue their irrelevance to moralresponsibility (a daunting prospect); or the critic can dispense with counterfactual intervention altogether. The paper pursues the second of these strategies, developing three examples of noncounterfactual intervention in which (i) the agent has no alternatives (and a fortiori no morally relevant alternatives), yet (ii) there is just as much reason to think that the agent is morally responsible as there was in Frankfurt''s original example. The new counterexamples do suffer from one liability, but this is insufficient in the end to repair PAP''s conceptual connection between moralresponsibility and alternate possibilities. (shrink)
Does having a mental disorder, in general, affect whether someone is morally responsible for an action? Many people seem to think so, holding that mental disorders nearly always mitigate responsibility. Against this Naïve view, we argue for a Nuanced account. The problem is not just that different theories of responsibility yield different verdicts about particular cases. Even when all reasonable theories agree about what's relevant to responsibility, the ways mental illness can affect behavior are so varied that (...) a more nuanced approach is needed. (shrink)
We argue against Thomson’s view that abortion is permissible even if fetuses have high moral status. Against this, we argue that, because many mothers are morally responsible for their pregnancies, they have a special obligation to assist. Finally, we address an objection according to which many mothers whose pregnancies are not a product of rape are not morally responsible to a sufficient degree, and so an obligation to assist is not generated. This objection assumes that the force of the (...) mother’s right to bodily integrity is not diminished if she is insufficiently morally responsible. We challenge this assumption. Our complete thesis is as follows: If a mother is morally responsible to a sufficient degree, she acquires an obligation to assist. If she is not, the force of her right to bodily integrity may be reduced. (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)
This article identifies and assesses a way of thinking that might help to explain why some compatibilists are attracted to what is variously called an internalist, structuralist, or anti-historicist view of moralresponsibility—a view about the bearing of agents’ histories on their moralresponsibility. Scenarios of two different kinds are considered. Several scenarios feature heavy-duty manipulation that radically changes an agent’s mature moral personality from admirable to despicable or vice versa. These “radical reversal” scenarios are (...) contrasted with a scenario featuring “original design”: a supernatural designer determines exactly how an agent’s life will go before the agent comes into existence. It is explained why scenarios of these two different kinds generate very different challenges to compatibilism. Partly in light of that explanation, it is argued that the way of thinking at issue is misguided. (shrink)
To what extent should an analysis of an agent’s being morally responsible for an action that he performed—especially a compatibilist analysis of this—be sensitive to the agent’s history? In this article, I give the issue a clearer focus than it tends to have in the literature, I lay some groundwork for an attempt to answer the question, and I motivate a partial but detailed answer.
The paper argues that it is possible for an incompatibilist to accept John Martin Fischer's plausible insistence that the question whether we are morally responsible agents ought not to depend on whether the laws of physics turn out to be deterministic or merely probabilistic. The incompatibilist should do so by rejecting the fundamentalism which entails that the question whether determinism is true is a question merely about the nature of the basic physical laws. It is argued that this is a (...) better option for ensuring the irrelevance of physics than the embrace of semi-compatibilism, since there are reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities are necessary for moralresponsibility, despite Fischer's claims to the contrary. There are two distinct reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities might be necessary for moralresponsibility—one of which is to do with fairness, the other to do with agency itself. It is suggested that if one focuses on the second of these reasons, Fischer's arguments for supposing that alternate possibilities are unnecessary for moralresponsibility can be met by the incompatibilist. Some possible reasons for denying that alternate possibilities are necessary for the existence of agency are then raised and rejected. (shrink)
Psychopathy involves impaired capacity for prudential and moral reasoning due to impaired capacity for empathy, remorse, and sensitivity to fear-inducing stimuli. Brain abnormalities and genetic polymorphisms associated with these traits appear to justify the claim that psychopaths cannot be morally responsible for their behavior. Yet psychopaths are capable of instrumental reasoning in achieving their goals, which suggests that they have some capacity to respond to moral reasons against performing harmful acts and refrain from performing them. The cognitive and (...) affective impairment of the psychopath justifies mitigated responsibility, but not excuse. (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)
It is widely thought that, to be morally responsible for some action or omission, an agent must have had, at the very least, the general ability to do otherwise. As we argue, however, there are counterexamples to the claim that moralresponsibility requires the general ability to do otherwise. We present several cases in which agents lack the general ability to do otherwise and yet are intuitively morally responsible for what they do, and we argue that such cases (...) raise problems for various kinds of accounts of moralresponsibility. We suggest two alternative approaches to thinking about the connection between moralresponsibility and abilities to do otherwise, one of which denies that there is any ability-to-do-otherwise requirement on moralresponsibility and the other of which requires only an opportunity to do otherwise. We also argue that a general-ability-to-do-otherwise requirement not only faces counterexamples but also lacks positive motivation. (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)
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)
The use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture makes great promises of better seeds, but also raises many controversies about ownership of seeds and about potential hazards. I suggest that owners of these seeds bear the responsibility to do no harm in using these seeds. After defining the nature of this responsibility, this paper asks, if ownership entails moralresponsibility, and ownership can be transferred, then how is moralresponsibility transferred? Building on the literature (...) on use plans, I suggest five conditions for a good transfer of moralresponsibility for genetically modified seeds. I also look at the Monsanto Technology Use Guide and Technology/Stewardship Agreement, as an examplar of a use plan, to explore the extent to which these conditions are present. I conclude that use plans can play a role in the distribution and transfer of moralresponsibility for technologies with high benefits and potential harmful uncertainties. (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)
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 essay provides a critical overview of the debate about corporate moralresponsibility. Parties to the debate address whether corporations are the kinds of entities that can be blamed when they cause unjustified harm. Proponents of CMR argue that corporations satisfy the conditions for moral agency and so they are fit for blame. Their opponents respond that corporations lack one or more of the capacities necessary for moral agency. I review the arguments on both sides and (...) conclude ultimately that what divides the two is not so much competing conceptions of the corporation as it is disagreement about what moral agency requires. Homing in on the real site of contention will, it is hoped, allow future participants in the debate to focus their efforts more productively. (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)
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)
Combatting chronic, lifestyle-related disease has become a healthcare priority in the developed world. The role personal responsibility should play in healthcare provision has growing pertinence given the growing significance of individual lifestyle choices for health. Media reporting focussing on the ‘bad behaviour’ of individuals suffering lifestyle-related disease, and policies aimed at encouraging ‘responsibilisation’ in healthcare highlight the importance of understanding the scope of responsibility ascriptions in this context. Research into the social determinants of health and psychological mechanisms of (...) health behaviour could undermine some commonly held and tacit assumptions about the moralresponsibility of agents for the sorts of lifestyles they adopt. I use Philip Petit's conception of freedom as ‘fitness to be held responsible’ to consider the significance of some of this evidence for assessing the moralresponsibility of agents. I propose that, in some cases, factors outside the agent's control may influence behaviour in such a way as to undermine her freedom along the three dimensions described by Pettit: freedom of action; a sense of identification with one's actions; and whether one's social position renders one vulnerable to pressure from more powerful others. (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)
This is a selection of essays on moralresponsibility that represent the major components of John Martin Fischer's overall approach to freedom of the will and moralresponsibility. The collection exhibits the overall structure of Fischer's view and shows how the various elements fit together to form a comprehensive framework for analyzing free will and moralresponsibility. The topics include deliberation and practical reasoning, freedom of the will, freedom of action, various notions of control, (...) and moral accountability. The essays seek to provide a foundation for our practices of holding each other (and ourselves) morally and legally accountable for our behavior. A crucial move is the distinction between two kinds of control. According to Fischer, "regulative control" involves freedom to choose and do otherwise ("alternative possibilities"), whereas "guidance control" does not. Fischer contends that guidance control is all the freedom we need to be morally responsible agents. Further, he contends that such control is fully compatible with causal determinism. Additionally, Fischer argues that we do not need genuine access to alternative possibilities in order for there to be a legitimate point to practical reasoning. Fischer's overall framework contains an argument for the contention that guidance control, and not regulative control, is associated with moralresponsibility, a sketch of a comprehensive theory of moralresponsibility (that ties together responsibility for actions, omissions, consequences, and character), and an account of the value of moralresponsibility. On this account, the value of exhibiting freedom (of the relevant sort) and thus being morally responsible for one's behavior is a species of the value of artistic self-expression. (shrink)