This is the first chapter to our edited collection of essays on the nature and ethics of blame. In this chapter we introduce the reader to contemporary discussions about blame and its relationship to other issues (e.g. free will and moral responsibility), and we situate the essays in this volume with respect to those discussions.
Control-based models of moral responsibility typically employ a notion of "tracing," according to which moral responsibility requires an exercise of control either immediately prior to the behavior in question or at some suitable point prior to the behavior. Responsibility, on this view, requires tracing back to control. But various philosophers, including Manuel Vargas and Angela Smith, have presented cases in which the plausibility of tracing is challenged. In this paper we discuss the examples and we argue that they do not (...) in fact impugn an attractive and natural tracing component. Our discussion can function in part as a defense of a control-based account of moral responsibility, but also as simply a defense of tracing. (shrink)
Our aim in this paper is to put the concept of moral responsibility under a microscope. At the lowest level of magnification, it appears unified. But Gary Watson has taught us that if we zoom in, we will find that moral responsibility has two faces: attributability and accountability. Or, to describe the two faces in different terms, there is a difference between being responsible and holding responsible. It is one thing to talk about the connection the agent has with her (...) action; it is quite another to talk about the potential interaction the agent might have with her moral community. It turns out, though, that the faces of moral responsibility can themselves be viewed under an even higher level of magnification. If moral responsibility has two faces, then our aim in this paper is to examine their features. To do so reveals subtle distinctions in our concept of moral responsibility and its interaction with surrounding issues that, we argue, can help illuminate various debates in the literature. (shrink)
Blame is usually discussed in the context of the free will problem, but recently moral philosophers have begun to examine it on its own terms. If, as many suppose, free will is to be understood as the control relevant to moral responsibility, and moral responsibility is to be understood in terms of whether blame is appropriate, then an independent inquiry into the nature and ethics of blame will be essential to solving (and, perhaps, even fully understanding) the free will problem. (...) In this article we first survey and categorize recent accounts of the nature of blame – is it action, belief, emotion, desire, or something else? – and then we look at several proposed requirements on appropriate blame that look beyond the transgressor himself, considerations that will form part of a full account of the ethics of blame. (shrink)
Several theorists (Merricks, Westphal, and McCall) have recently claimed to offer a novel way to respond to the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge, rooted in Molina's insight that God's beliefs depend on what we do, rather than the other way around. In this paper we argue that these responses either beg the question, or else are dressed-up versions of Ockhamism.
The most prominent recent attack on compatibilism about determinism and moral responsibility is the so-called manipulation argument, which presents an allegedly responsibility-undermining manipulation case and then points out that the relevant facts of that case are no different from the facts that obtain in an ordinary deterministic world. In a recent article in this journal, however, Matt King presents a dilemma for proponents of this argument, according to which the argument either leads to a dialectical stalemate or else is dialectically (...) infelicitous. In this article I clarify the structure of the manipulation argument and construct a response to King’s dilemma. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that defenders of Frankfurt-style counterexamples to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities do not need to construct a metaphysically possible scenario in which an agent is morally responsible despite lacking the ability to do otherwise. Rather, there is a weaker (but equally legitimate) sense in which Frankfurt-style counterexamples can succeed. All that's needed is the claim that the ability to do otherwise is no part of what grounds moral responsibility, when the agent is indeed morally responsible.
Many object to libertarianism by arguing that it manages to solve one problem of luck only by falling prey to another . According to this objection, there is something freedom-undermining about the very circumstances that the libertarian thinks are required for freedom. However, it has proved difficult to articulate precisely what it is about these circumstances that is supposed to undermine freedom—the absence of certain sorts of explanations has perhaps been the most common complaint. In this paper, however, I argue (...) that recent work on the metaphysics of ontological dependence provides the resources for formulating the luck objection in its strongest form. (shrink)
Central to Fischer and Ravizza's theory of moral responsibility is the concept of guidance control, which involves two conditions: (1) moderate reasons-responsiveness, and (2) mechanism ownership. We raise a worry for Fischer and Ravizza's account of (1). If an agent acts contrary to reasons which he could not recognize, this should lead us to conclude that he is not morally responsible for his behaviour; but according to Fischer and Ravizza's account, he satisfies the conditions for guidance control and is therefore (...) morally responsible. We consider ways in which the account of guidance control might be mended. (shrink)
One of the most influential accounts of blame—the affective account—takes its cue from P.F. Strawson’s discussion of the reactive attitudes. To blame someone, on this account, is to target her with resentment, indignation, or (in the case of self-blame) guilt. Given the connection between these emotions and the demand for regard that is arguably central to morality, the affective account is quite plausible. Recently, however, George Sher has argued that the affective account of blame, as understood both by Strawson himself (...) and by contemporary Strawsonians, is inadequate because it cannot make sense of blameworthiness. In this paper I defend the affective account of blame against several of Sher’s arguments for this conclusion. In the process, I clarify the Strawsonian account of moral responsibility, and I discuss how the affective account of blame ought to be understood and articulated. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the global and (...) local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
Nelson Pike’s article, “Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action,” is one of the most influential pieces in contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Published over forty years ago, it has elicited many different kinds of replies. We shall set forth some of the main lines of reply to Pike’s article, starting with some of the “early” replies. We then explore some issues that arise from relatively recent work in the philosophy of time; it is fascinating to note that views suggested by recent work (...) in this area and related areas of metaphysics have implications for Pike’s argument - implications perhaps not previously noticed. (shrink)
Source incompatibilism is an increasingly popular version of incompatibilism about determinism and moral responsibility. However, many self-described source incompatibilists formulate the thesis differently, resulting in conceptual confusion that can obscure the relationship between source incompatibilism and other views in the neighborhood. In this paper I canvas various formulations of the thesis in the literature and argue in favor of one as the least likely to lead to conceptual confusion. It turns out that accepting my formulation has some surprising taxonomical consequences.
In this chapter I articulate the threat that time travel to the past allegedly poses to the free will of the time traveler, and I argue that on the traditional way of thinking about free will, the incompatibilist about time travel and free will wins the day. However, a residual worry about the incompatibilist view points the way toward a novel way of thinking about free will, one that I tentatively explore toward the end of the chapter.
How do promissory obligations get created? Some have thought that the answer to this question must make reference to our social practice of promising. Recently, however, T.M. Scanlon has argued (in his book What We Owe to Each Other) for a pure ‘expectation view’ of promising, according to which promissory obligations arise as a result of our producing certain expectations in others. He formulates a principle of fidelity (Principle F) that tells us when one has gained an obligation due to (...) producing expectations in another, and he maintains that breaking one's promise is merely a special instance of violation against Principle F. Though initially compelling, Scanlon’s account is ultimately unsatisfactory because it is subject to a vicious circularity. In order to get out of the circle, we are forced to resort back to elements of a social practice view of promising. Thus we arrive at a hybrid view of promissory obligation, which weds parts of Scanlon’s expectation view with parts of a social practice view. After briefly examining and rejecting Scanlon’s pure expectation view, I consider the hybrid view of Niko Kolodny and R. Jay Wallace. I present a serious objection to the hybrid view as they formulate it and go on to construct a modified hybrid view. Finally, I defend my modified hybrid view from certain pressing objections. (shrink)
A style of argument that calls into question our freedom (in the sense that involves freedom to do otherwise) has been around for millennia; it can be traced back to Origen. The argument-form makes use of the crucial idea that the past is over-and-done-with and thus fixed; we cannot now do anything about the distant past (or, for that matter, the recent past)—it is now too late. Peter van Inwagen has presented this argument (what he calls the Consequence Argument) in (...) perhaps its clearest and most forceful way, but debate over the argument has arguably reached a stalemate. -/- Recently, however, Wes Holliday has attempted to break this seeming stalemate by presenting a new argument for the Principle of the Fixity of the Past. Holliday’s argument is subtle and ingenious, and worthy of serious consideration, especially given the promise it holds for genuinely advancing this old debate. In what follows, however, we argue that despite its considerable ingenuity, Holliday’s argument fails to convince, and the stalemate appears to remain. (shrink)
Analytic philosophers have a tendency to forget that they are human beings, and one of the reasons that P. F. Strawson’s 1962 essay, “Freedom and Resentment”, has been so influential is that it promises to bring discussions of moral responsibility back down to earth. Strawson encouraged us to “keep before our minds...what it is actually like to be involved in ordinary interpersonal relationships”, which is, after all, the context in which questions about responsibility arise in the first place. In this (...) essay I explore what we can learn about ordinary interpersonal relationships from three works of literature – Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. My intention is to try to heed Strawson’s advice without imposing upon the data any particular theoretical agenda, and my hope is that the data collected will prove useful for future theorizing about responsibility. (shrink)
This chapter explores the concept of judgmentalism: what it is and why it’s morally problematic. After criticizing an account offered by Gary Watson, the paper argues for a broader understanding of what it is to be judgmental, encompassing not just the overall beliefs that we form about someone else, but also the very pattern of our thoughts about those with whom we are involved in interpersonal relationships. The thesis is that to care about someone is to be oriented toward them, (...) or to see them through a particular mental lens, in a way that produces a particular pattern of salience and silence. That is: caring about someone (at least ideally) has the effect of making some features of that person particularly salient, and silencing or screening off other features from one’s consciousness. One is aptly described as judgmental when one’s thoughts do not display this sort of pattern, indicating a failure to fully adopt the orientation that constitutes properly caring about the person. (shrink)
Hudson has formulated two local deterministic theses and argued that both are incompatible with freedom. We argue that Hudson has half the story right. Moreover, reflection on Hudson’s theses brings out an important point for debates about freedom generally: that instead of focusing on the notion of entailment, debates about freedom should focus on the notions of explanation and sourcehood. Hudson’s theses provide an excellent case study for why the latter notions ought to take precedence over the former in debates (...) about freedom. (shrink)
What are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for an object's being a simple (an object without proper parts)? According to one prominent view, The Pointy View of Simples, an object is a simple if and only if the region occupied by that object contains exactly one point in space. According to another prominent view, MaxCon, an object is a simple if and only if it is maximally continuous. In this paper, I argue that both of these views are inconsistent (...) with the possibility of discrete space. I then go on to formulate analogues to these two views that are consistent with this possibility, and argue that if we are willing to grant the possibility of discrete space, we should endorse the analogue to The Pointy View of Simples over the analogue to MaxCon. (shrink)
In a fascinating recent article, Michael Otsuka seeks to bypass the debates about the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by presenting and defending a different, but related, principle, which he calls the “Principle of Avoidable Blame.” According to this principle, one is blameworthy for performing an act only if one could instead have behaved in an entirely blameless manner. Otsuka claims that although Frankfurt-cases do undermine the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, they do not undermine the Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this (...) brief paper, we offer a critical discussion of the core of Otsuka’s argument, especially the claim that his favored principle cannot be refuted by Frankfurt-cases. We do not believe that Otsuka has offered good reason to suppose that the Principle of Avoidable Blame—and the related incompatibilism—fares any better than the original Principle of Alternative Possibilities. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that whilehis criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the global andlocal arguments (...) from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
Although libertarians and compatibilists disagree about whether moral responsibility requires the falsity of determinism, they tend to agree that moral responsibility is at least compatible with the falsity of determinism. But there is a real worry about how that can be: after all, if my actions aren’t determined, then isn’t their occurrence just a matter of luck? In this paper, I offer a suggestion for how to understand and deal with this problem by appealing to the influential and powerful theory (...) of moral responsibility developed by John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza. (shrink)
This paper explores what the metaphysics of time travel might teach us about moral responsibility. We take our cue from a recent paper by Yishai Cohen, who argues that if time travel is metaphysically possible, then one of the most influential theories of moral responsibility (i.e., Fischer and Ravizza’s) is false. We argue that Cohen’s argument is unsound but that Cohen’s argument can serve as a lens to bring reasons-responsive theories of moral responsibility into sharper focus, helping us to better (...) understand actual-sequence theories of moral responsibility more generally and showing how actual-sequence theorists should respond to a recent criticism. (shrink)
The Consequence Argument is sound only if no one has a choice about the laws of nature, and one prominent compatibilist reply to the argument—championed by David Lewis —begins by claiming that there is a sense in which we do have such a choice, and a sense in which we don't. Lewis then insists that the sense in which we do have such a choice is the only sense required by compatibilism. Peter van Inwagen has responded that even if Lewis's (...) distinction between two senses of having a choice about the laws is accepted, compatibilists are still committed to the incredible view that free will requires the ability to perform miracles. In this paper, I offer a reply to van Inwagen on Lewis's behalf. (shrink)
This special volume of Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility presents ten new papers marking the fiftieth anniversary of P. F. Strawson's landmark essay, 'Freedom and Resentment'. They offer critical interpretation of Strawson's essay, expand on his insights into interpersonal relationships, and develop his themes in challenging directions.
One common reaction to criticism is to try to deflect it by calling into question the motivations of the person doing the criticizing. For example, if I feel like you are blaming me for something that you yourself are guilty of having done in the past, I might respond with the retort, "Who are you to blame me for this?", where this retort is meant to serve not as an excuse but rather as a challenge to the standing of the (...) blamer. The notion of standing has taken center stage in much recent literature on the ethics of blame, though there is no consensus on how best to understand the precise force of the "who are you" retort. In this paper, I look at a different sort of retort, one that also calls into question the motivations of the criticizer. Instead of accusing the criticizer of being motivated by self-righteousness, however, this retort accuses the criticizer of being motivated by envy. How are these two retorts related to each other? If the accusation of envy isn't a challenge to the blamer's standing, then what sort of challenge is it and what normative force does it carry (if any)? Taking my cue from the ethics of blame literature, I try to address these and other questions about the interaction between envy and blame. (shrink)
In our paper, "Omniscience, Freedom, and Dependence" (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88: 346-367), we argued that recent attempts (by Merricks, McCall, and Westphal) to resolve the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge fail because they are question-begging. Westphal replied to our paper in an earlier issue of Analysis, and this article is our rejoinder to his reply.
In this paper I argue that Harry Frankfurt's work (both on volitional necessity and on Descartes) can help us to understand the argument that is at the heart of P. F. Strawson's classic article, "Freedom and Resentment". Strawson seems to say that it is both idle and irrelevant to ask whether the participant attitude (the framework within which we see others as morally responsible agents) is justified, but many have been puzzled by these remarks. In this paper I contend that (...) we can better understand Strawson's argument by taking him to be saying that the participant attitude is volitionally necessary. (shrink)
Our focus in this chapter will be the role the pride has played, both historically and contemporarily, in Christian theology and philosophical theology. We begin by delineating a number of different types of pride, since some types are positive (e.g., when a parent tells a daughter “I’m proud of you for being brave”), and others are negative (e.g., “Pride goes before a fall”) or even vicious. We then explore the role that the negative emotion and vice play in the history (...) of Christianity, with particular attention to a number of influential figures. We conclude by exploring how pride connects with a number of other central issues in Christian theology. (shrink)
Although it is widely accepted that hypocritical blamers lack the standing to blame others who have committed similar wrongs, an account of what it is that’s lost when someone loses their standing to blame remains elusive. When moral address is inappropriate because it is or would be hypocritical, what is the precise nature of the complaint that the blamed party is entitled to raise, and that so often gets voiced as “I don’t have to take that from you”? In this (...) paper I argue that extant answers to this question fall short, and I offer a novel account that takes seriously the thought that hypocrisy somehow silences the blame of the hypocrite. To make sense of this silencing effect, I argue that we need to look closely at the role that second-personal reasons play in moral address. (shrink)
In his classic essay, "The Dilemma of Determinism", William James argues that the truth of determinism would make regret irrational. Given the central role of regret in our moral lives, James concludes that determinism is false. In this paper I explore the attitude of regret and show that James's argument is mistaken. Not only can we rationally regret events that were determined to occur, but we can also rationally regret events that had to occur.
Blame is fascinating yet elusive, and it is both of these things because it is so complex. It seems to have a cognitive aspect (the belief that someone has done wrong, perhaps), but it also seems to have an emotional aspect (resentment at being disrespected, perhaps). And then of course there is the outside-of-the-head aspect of blame, which manifests itself in rebukes and reprimands, accusations and distrust, cold shoulders and estrangement. Still, accounts of blame that identify it with beliefs or (...) emotions seem inadequate. In this paper I draw on the work of Harry Frankfurt to suggest an alternative account, according to which blame most centrally involves changes in the structure of the will. (shrink)
No one has written more insightfully on the promises and perils of human agency than Gary Watson, who has spent a career thinking about issues such as moral responsibility, blame, free will, addiction, and psychopathy. This special edition of OSAR pays tribute to Watson's work by taking up and extending themes from his pioneering essays.
This volume celebrates the career of John Martin Fischer, whose work on a wide range of topics over the past forty years has been transformative and inspirational. Fischer’s semicompatibilist view of free will and moral responsibility is perhaps the most widely discussed view of its kind, and his emphasis on the significance of reasons-responsiveness as the capacity the underlies moral accountability has been widely influential. Aside from free will and moral responsibility, Fischer is also well-known for his work on freedom (...) and foreknowledge, the problem of evil, the badness of death, the meaning of life, and the allure of immortality. This volume gathers new essays by leading scholars whose work intersects with Fischer’s in these areas, and it concludes with a new piece by Fischer where he reflects on his philosophical career and how his views have changed over the years. The volume will be of interest to scholars and students working on a variety of issues in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and ethics. (shrink)
Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility is a series of volumes presenting outstanding new work on a set of connected themes in moral philosophy and philosophy of action. This special volume in the series presents ten new papers marking the fiftieth anniversary of P. F. Strawson's landmark essay, 'Freedom and Resentment'. Some of the papers offer critical interpretation of Strawson's essay, some expand on his insights into the nature of interpersonal relationships, and some develop his overall themes in new and (...) challenging directions. (shrink)