I respond to Tim Smartt’s (2023) skepticism about epistemic blame. Smartt’s skepticism is based on the claims that i) mere negative epistemic evaluation can better explain everything proponents of epistemic blame say we need epistemic blame to explain; and ii) no existing account of epistemic blame provides a plausible account of the putative force that any response deserving the label “blame” ought to have. He focuses primarily on the prominent “relationship-based” account of epistemic blame (...) to defend these claims, arguing that the account is explanatorily idle, and cannot distinguish between epistemically excused and epistemically blameworthy agents. I argue that Smartt mischaracterizes the account’s role for judgments of epistemic relationship impairment, leading to mistaken claims about the account’s predictions. I also argue that the very feature of the account that Smartt mischaracterizes is key to understanding what epistemic blame does for our epistemic responsibility practices that mere negative epistemic evaluation cannot. (shrink)
In this paper I explore some ideas inspired by Federico Picinali’s Justice In-Between: A Study of Intermediate Criminal Verdicts. Picinali makes a case for the introduction of intermediate options in criminal trials – verdicts with consequences that are harsher than an acquittal, but not so harsh as a conviction. From a certain perspective, the absence of intermediate options in criminal trials is puzzling – out of kilter with much of our everyday decision-making and, perhaps, with the recommendations of expected utility (...) theory. I will argue, however, that the lack of intermediate options is much less puzzling when put in the context of our ordinary practices of blame and non-legal punishment. (shrink)
Blaming (construed broadly to include both blaming-attitudes and blaming-actions) is a puzzling phenomenon. Even when we grant that someone is blameworthy, we can still sensibly wonder whether we ought to blame him. We sometimes choose to forgive and show mercy, even when it is not asked for. We are naturally led to wonder why we shouldn’t always do this. Wouldn’t it be a better to wholly reject the punitive practices of blame, especially in light of their often undesirable (...) effects, and embrace an ethic of unrelenting forgiveness and mercy? In this paper I seek to address these questions by offering an account of blame that provides a rationale for thinking that to wholly forswear blaming blameworthy agents would be deeply mistaken. This is because, as I will argue, blaming is a way of valuing, it is “a mode of valuation.” I will argue that among the minimal standards of respect generated by valuable objects, notably persons, is the requirement to redress disvalue with blame. It is not just that blame is something additional we are required to do in properly valuing, but rather blame is part of what that it is to properly value. Blaming, given the existence of blameworthy agents, is mode of valuation required by the standards of minimal respect. To forswear blame would be to fail value what we ought to value. (shrink)
Many important theorists – e.g., Gary Watson and Stephen Darwall – characterize blame as a communicative entity and argue that this entails that morally responsible agency requires not just rational but moral competence. In this paper, I defend this argument from communication against three objections found in the literature. The first two reject the argument’s characterization of the reactive attitudes. The third urges that the argument is committed to a false claim.
Blame skeptics argue that we have strong reason to revise our blame practices because humans do not fulfill all the conditions for it being appropriate to blame them. This paper presents a new challenge for this view. Many have objected that blame plays valuable roles such that we have strong reason to hold on to our blame practices. Skeptics typically reply that non-blaming responses to objectionable conduct, like forms of disappointment, can serve the positive functions (...) of blame. The new challenge is that skeptics need to show that it can be appropriate (or less inappropriate) to respond with this kind of disappointment to people’s conduct if it is inappropriate to respond with blame. The paper argues that current blame-skeptical views fail to meet this challenge. (shrink)
What is it to blame someone, and when are would-be blamers in a position to do so? What function does blame serve in our lives, and is it a valuable way of relating to one another? The essays in this volume explore answers to these and related questions.
In the last two decades, blame has become a core topic in ethics, philosophical moral psychology and, more recently, epistemology. This chapter aims at clarifying the complex state of the debate and at making a suggestion for how we should proceed from here. The core idea is that accounts of blame are often motivated by very different background goals. One standard goal is to provide a unifying account of our everyday blame practices. The chapter argues that there (...) is reason to think that this goal is not achievable. Another goal is to provide the tools for solving or clarifying important social or philosophical problems. The chapter suggests that this is what theories of blame should focus on. (shrink)
Central cases of moral blame suggest that blame presupposes that its target deserves to feel guilty, and that if one is blameworthy to some degree, one deserves to feel guilt to a corresponding degree. This, some think, is what explains why being blameworthy for something presupposes having had a strong kind of control over it: only given such control is the suffering involved in feeling guilt deserved. This chapter argues that all this is wrong. As evidenced by a (...) wider range of cases, blame doesn’t presuppose that the target deserves to feel guilt and doesn’t necessarily aim at the target’s suffering in recognition of what they have done. On the constructive side, the chapter offers an explanation of why, in many cases of moral blameworthiness, the agent nevertheless does deserve to feel guilt. The explanation leans on a general account of moral and non-moral blame and blameworthiness and a version of the popular idea that moral blame targets agents’ objectionable quality of will. Given the latter idea, the morally blameworthy have harmed the standing of some person or value, giving rise to obligations to give correspondingly less relative weight to their own standing, and so, sometimes, to their own suffering. (shrink)
This paper provides a critical overview of recent work on epistemic blame. The paper identifies key features of the concept of epistemic blame and discusses two ways of motivating the importance of this concept. Four different approaches to the nature of epistemic blame are examined. Central issues surrounding the ethics and value of epistemic blame are identified and briefly explored. In addition to providing an overview of the state of the art of this growing but controversial (...) field, the paper highlights areas where future work is needed. (shrink)
Blame is an unpopular and neglected notion: it goes against the grain of a therapeutically-oriented culture and has been far less discussed by philosophers than such related notions as responsibility and punishment. This book seeks to show that neither the opposition nor the neglect is justified. The book's most important conclusion is that blame is inseperable from morality itself - that any considerations that justify us in accepting a set of moral principles must also call for the condemnation (...) of those who violate the principles. Properly understood, blame and morality must stand or fall together. (shrink)
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)
When someone blames you, you might accept the blame or you might reject it, challenging the blamer’s interpretation of the facts, or providing a justification or excuse. Either way, there are opportunities for edifying moral discussion and moral repair. But another common, and less constructive, response is to simply dismiss the blame, refusing to engage with the blamer. Even if you agree that you are blameworthy, you may refuse to engage with the blame—in particular, with blame (...) coming from this particular person. This paper aims to make sense of this kind of response: what are we doing when we dismiss blame? A common thought is that we dismiss demands issued by blame, but we still must identify the content of the relevant demands. My proposal is that when we dismiss blame, we dismiss a demand to respond to the blame with a second-personal expression of remorse to the blamer. (shrink)
We evaluate people all the time for a wide variety of activities. We blame them for miscalculations, uninspired art, and committing crimes. We praise them for detailed brushwork, a superb pass, and their acts of kindness. We accomplish things, from solving crosswords to mastering guitar solos. We bungle our endeavors, whether this is letting a friend down or burning dinner. Sometimes these deeds are morally significant, but many times they are not. Simply Responsible defends the radical proposal that the (...) blameworthy artist is responsible in just the same way that the blameworthy thief is. We can be responsible for all kinds of different activities, from lip-synching to long division, from murders to meringues, but the relation involved, what author Matt King calls the basic responsibility relation, is the same in every case. We are responsible for the things we do first, then blameworthy or praiseworthy for having done them in light of whether they're good or bad, according to a variety of standards. Why is this a radical proposal? Firstly, because so much of the contemporary literature on moral responsibility has moralized its nature. According to most accounts, moral responsibility is either a special species of responsibility or else depends on moralized capacities. In contrast, King argues that we get a more complete and unifying picture of responsible agency from a more general theory of responsibility. Secondly, the proposal is radical due to its drastic simplicity. King foregoes many of the complications that feature in other accounts of responsibility, arguing that we can make do with less demanding theoretical elements. (shrink)
This chapter argues that adequately facing and responding to medical error requires making space for blame. In vindicating blame as a response to medical error, this essay does not advocate a return to a “bad apple” blame culture in which unlucky practitioners are unfairly scapegoated. It does, however, defend the targeted feeling and expression of angry, and even resentful, blaming attitudes toward health-care providers who make at least certain kinds of mistakes. The chapter makes the case that (...) the angry and resentful feelings associated with blame reflect a conception of oneself as a person worthy of consideration, and that expressing these feelings allows victims and families to fight for their dignity and self-respect. Along the way, it distinguishes between shaming and blaming, explaining that blaming, unlike shaming, characteristically aims to draw offenders into a moral dialogue. As a result, a good blaming practice can provide a logic within which providers who make costly errors may seek forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. (shrink)
What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom (...) of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” the interdisciplinary nature of the question has been emphasized by various authors. Going beyond the boundaries of the traditional free will debate, they have attempted to describe the requirements for agent accountability by appeal to theories of personality, rational agency, and ethical choice. The approach has been a breath of fresh air in the often-stagnant free will debate, bringing new considerations to bear and provoking new lines of argument, and it is an approach that we will adopt in this paper. In the following pages, we hope to show that an under-noticed phenomenon of moral psychology, inverse akrasia, exemplified by Huckleberry Finn, has something to contribute to the understanding of agency and accountability. After presenting the phenomenon in section I, we will move in section II to a quick survey of a family of Frankfurt-inspired views and a critique of them based on the phenomenon in sections III and IV. A new theory will be offered in section V, and potential objections addressed in the final section of the paper. (shrink)
The normative force of evidence can seem puzzling. It seems that having conclusive evidence for a proposition does not, by itself, make it true that one ought to believe the proposition. But spelling out the condition that evidence must meet in order to provide us with genuine normative reasons for belief seems to lead us into a dilemma: the condition either fails to explain the normative significance of epistemic reasons or it renders the content of epistemic norms practical. The first (...) aim of this paper is to spell out this challenge for the normativity of evidence. I argue that the challenge rests on a plausible assumption about the conceptual connection between normative reasons and blameworthiness. The second aim of the paper is to show how we can meet the challenge by spelling out a concept of epistemic blameworthiness. Drawing on recent accounts of doxastic responsibility and epistemic blame, I suggest that the normativity of evidence is revealed in our practice of suspending epistemic trust in response to impaired epistemic relationships. Recognizing suspension of trust as a form of epistemic blame allows us to make sense of a purely epistemic kind of normativity the existence of which has recently been called into doubt by certain versions of pragmatism and instrumentalism. (shrink)
This paper argues that hypocritical blame renders blame inappropriate. Someone should not express her blame if she is guilty of the same thing for which she is blaming others, in the absence of an admission of fault. In failing to blame herself for the same violations of norms she condemns in another, the hypocrite evinces important moral faults, which undermine her right to blame. The hypocrite refuses or culpably fails to admit her own mistakes, while (...) at the same time demands that others admit theirs. The paper argues that this lack of reciprocity—expecting others to take morality seriously by apologizing for their faults, without one doing the same in return—is what makes hypocritical blame unfair. (shrink)
Recently, psychologists have explored moral concepts including obligation, blame, and ability. While little empirical work has studied the relationships among these concepts, philosophers have widely assumed such a relationship in the principle that “ought” implies “can,” which states that if someone ought to do something, then they must be able to do it. The cognitive underpinnings of these concepts are tested in the three experiments reported here. In Experiment 1, most participants judge that an agent ought to keep a (...) promise that he is unable to keep, but only when he is to blame for the inability. Experiment 2 shows that such “ought” judgments correlate with judgments of blame, rather than with judgments of the agent’s ability. Experiment 3 replicates these findings for moral “ought” judgments and finds that they do not hold for nonmoral “ought” judgments, such as what someone ought to do to fulfill their desires. These results together show that folk moral judgments do not conform to a widely assumed philosophical principle that “ought” implies “can.” Instead, judgments of blame play a modulatory role in some judgments of obligation. (shrink)
This investigation focused on relationships among sexual assault, self-blame, and sexual revictimization. Among a female undergraduate sample of adolescent sexual assault victims, those endorsing greater self-blame following sexual assault were at increased risk for sexual revictimization during a 4.2-month follow-up period. Moreover, to the extent that sexual assault victims perceived nonconsensual sex is permitted by law, they were more likely to blame themselves for their own assaults. Discussion focuses on situating victim-based risk factors within sociocultural context.
We blame faulty brakes for a car crash, or rain for our bad mood. This “merely causal” blame is usually seen as uninteresting. I argue that it is crucial for understanding the interpersonal blame with which we target ourselves and each other. The two are often difficult to distinguish, in a way that plagues philosophical discussions of blame. And interpersonal blame is distinctive, I argue, partly in its causal focus: its attention to a person as (...) cause. I argue that this causal focus helps explain several central characteristics of interpersonal blame: its tendency to exaggerate a person’s causal role, its weakening through attention to personal history or thoughts about determinism, its characteristic ‘force’ or ‘sting’, and our sense that blame is often harmful or unfair. I conclude by drawing out one implication of blame's causal focus: in a certain range of cases, blame is partly under our voluntary control. (shrink)
Believing in God requires not only a leap of faith but also an extension of people’s normal capacity to perceive the minds of others. Usually, people perceive minds of all kinds by trying to understand their conscious experience (what it is like to be them) and their agency (what they can do). Although humans are perceived to have both agency and experience, humans appear to see God as possessing agency, but not experience. God’s unique mind is due, the authors suggest, (...) to the uniquely moral role He occupies. In this article, the authors propose that God is seen as the ultimate moral agent, the entity people blame and praise when they receive anomalous harm and help. Support for this proposition comes from research on mind perception, morality, and moral typecasting. Interestingly, although people perceive God as the author of salvation, suffering seems to evoke even more attributions to the divine. (shrink)
Benjamin Bagley ('Properly Proleptic Blame', Ethics 127, July 2017) sets out a dilemma for addressed blame, that is, blame addressed to its targets as an implicit demand for recognition. The dilemma arises when we ask whether offenders would actually appreciate this demand, via a sound deliberative route from their existing motivations. If they would, their offense reflects a deliberative mistake. If they wouldn't, addressing them is futile, and blame's emotional engagement seems unwarranted. Bagley wants to resolve (...) the dilemma in such a way that addressed blame's distinctive elements of hostility and emotional engagement can be accounted for. I argue that Bagley's focus on the proleptic character of addressed blame helps to avoid the dilemma, but that Bagley has difficulties accounting for the element of hostility in addressed blame. I suggest that an alternative account of addressed blame makes better sense of Bagley's paradigm example, avoids Bagley's dilemma in the way Bagley's original solution does, because it preserves addressed blame's proleptic character, and can account for addressed blame's elements of emotional engagement and hostility. (shrink)
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.
Blame abounds in our everyday lives, perhaps no more so than on social media. With the rise of social networking platforms, we have access to more information about others’ blameworthy behaviour and larger audiences to whom we can express our blame. But these audiences, while large, are typically not diverse. Social media tends to create what I call “blame bubbles”: systems in which expressions of blame are shared amongst agents with similar moral outlooks while dissenting views (...) are excluded. Many have criticised the blame expressed on social media, arguing that it is often unfitting, excessive, and counterproductive. In this talk, I’ll argue that while blame bubbles can be guilty of these charges, they are also well placed to do important moral work. I’ll then attempt to identify the causal source of these bad-making features and explore potential structural interventions that can make blame bubbles better at performing their moral function and less likely to generate harmful consequences. (shrink)
Self-blame is an integral part of our lives. We often blame ourselves for our failings and experience familiar unpleasant emotions such as guilt, shame, regret, or remorse. Self-blame is also what we often aim for when we blame others: we want the people we blame to recognize their wrongdoing and blame themselves for it. Moreover, self-blame is typically considered a necessary condition for forgiveness. However, until now, self-blame has not been an integral (...) part of the theoretical debate on moral responsibility. This volume presents twelve new essays by leading moral philosophers, who set out bold new theories of the nature and ethics of self-blame, and the interconnection between self-blame and moral responsibility. The essays cast new light on traditional problems in the debate on moral responsibility and open new, exciting avenues for research in moral philosophy, moral psychology and the philosophy of punishment. (shrink)
The New Evil Demon Problem presents a serious challenge to externalist theories of epistemic justification. In recent years, externalists have developed a number of strategies for responding to the problem. A popular line of response involves distinguishing between a belief’s being epistemically justified and a subject’s being epistemically blameless for holding it. The apparently problematic intuitions the New Evil Demon Problem elicits, proponents of this response claim, track the fact that the deceived subject is epistemically blameless for believing as she (...) does, not that she is justified for so believing. This general strategy—which I call the “unjustified-but-blameless maneuver”—is motivated, in part, by the assumption that the distinction between epistemic justification and blamelessness is merely an extension of the familiar distinction between moral justification and blamelessness. In this paper, I consider three ways of drawing the distinction between justification and blamelessness familiar from the moral domain: the first in terms of a connection with reactive attitudes, the second in terms of the distinction between wrongness and wronging, and the third in terms of reasons-responsiveness. All three ways of drawing the distinction, I argue, make it difficult to see how an analogous distinction in the epistemic domain could help externalists explain away the intuitions which underwrite the New Evil Demon Problem. Motivating the unjustified-but-blameless maneuver, I conclude, is a much less straightforward task than its proponents tend to assume. (shrink)
It is generally agreed that for blame to be appropriate the wrongdoer must be blameworthy. However, blameworthiness is not sufficient for appropriate blame. It has been argued that for blame to be appropriate the blamer must have standing to blame. Philosophers writing on the topic have distinguished several considerations that might defeat someone’s standing to blame. This paper examines the underexplored consideration of how personal relationships can influence who has the standing to express blame. (...) We seem to assume that if we do not stand in the right relation to the wrongdoer, it is not our business to blame them. I identify three challenges to this view. First, we do not know what is wrong with meddling (whether it is morally or prudentially wrong). Second, there are cases where we have no close relation to the wrongdoer, but where we seem to have standing nonetheless – murder and other serious moral offences are examples of this. Third, we don’t seem to have a clear conception of what ‘standing’ means, and this makes it hard to see how discussion on standing can help us determine the propriety of blame. This paper defends the notion of standing as a propriety condition on blame in cases of meddling. I argue that personal relationships influence who has the standing to blame through constitution of relationship-specific norms; and that the role these norms play in developing and regulating our relationships can explain why meddlesome blame is morally wrong. (shrink)
Blame is multifarious. It can be passionate or dispassionate. It can be expressed or kept private. We blame both the living and the dead. And we blame ourselves as well as others. What’s more, we blame ourselves, not only for our moral failings, but also for our non-moral failings: for our aesthetic bad taste, gustatory self-indulgence, or poor athletic performance. And we blame ourselves both for things over which we exerted agential control (e.g., our voluntary (...) acts) and for things over which we lacked such control (e.g., our desires, beliefs, and intentions). I argue that, despite this manifest diversity in our blaming practices, it’s possible to provide comprehensive account of blame. Indeed, I propose a set of necessary and sufficient conditions that aims to specify blame’s extension in terms of its constitution as opposed to its function. And I argue that this proposal has a number of advantages beyond accounting for blame in all its disparate forms. For one, it can account for the fact that one’s having had control over whether one was to φ is a necessary condition for one’s being fittingly blamed for having φ-ed. For another, it can account for why, unlike fitting shame, fitting blame is always deserved, which in turn explains why there is something morally problematic about ridding oneself of one’s fitting self-blame (e.g., one’s fitting guilt). (shrink)
When a wrongdoing occurs, victims, barring special circumstance, can aptly forgive their wrongdoers, receive apologies, and be paid reparations. It is also uncontroversial, in the usual circumstances, that wronged parties can aptly blame their wrongdoer. But controversy arises when we consider blame from third-parties after the victim has forgiven. At times it seems that wronged parties can make blame inapt through forgiveness. If third parties blame anyway, it often appears the victim is justified in protesting. “But (...) I forgave him!” In other cases, however, forgiveness seems irrelevant: B can forgive A, but it can still seem that third parties can aptly blame A for the wrong against B. This perplexity adds a dimension to ongoing discussion regarding criteria for apt blame and the related issues of standing and fittingness. This paper explores the status of third party blame after forgiveness. I argue that while post forgiveness blame is often inapt, in many other cases forgiveness is irrelevant. This difference is explained by appeal to the various relationships third parties might have to wronged parties, and how these differences affect the ways we blame and thereby blame’s aptness. (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)
Moral philosophers, legal theorists, and psychologists who study moral judgment are remarkably agreed in prescribing how to blame people. A blameworthy act occurs when an actor intentionally, negligently or recklessly causes foreseen, or foreseeable, harmful consequences without any compelling mitigating or extenuating circumstances. This simple formulation conveniently forestalls intricacies about how to construe concepts such as will, causation, foresight, and mitigation, but putting that aside for the moment, it seems fair to say that blame “professionals” share compatible conceptions (...) of how to make fair and rational blame ascriptions. Blame “amateurs,” on the other hand, sometimes stretch these rational prescriptions for blame beyond the breaking point. Numerous psychological studies on blame and responsibility, as well as the perplexing outcomes of high-profile criminal and civil trials, demonstrate that everyday blamers are capable of violating virtually every rational prescription that moral philosophers, legal scholars, and rational decision theorists hold dear. (shrink)
This paper explores a problem for Michael McKenna’s conversation model of moral responsibility that views blame as characteristically part of a conversational exchange. The problem for this model on which this paper focuses is the problem of private blame. Sometimes when we blame we do so without any intention to engage in a communicative exchange. It is argued that McKenna’s model cannot adequately account for private blame.
In this dissertation I develop a philosophical theory of scapegoating that explains the role of blame-shifting and guilt avoidance in the endurance of oppression. I argue that scapegoating masks and justifies oppression by shifting unwarranted blame onto marginalized groups and away from systems of oppression and those who benefit from them, such that people in dominant positions are less inclined to notice or challenge its workings. I first identify a gap in our understanding of oppression, namely how oppression (...) endures despite widespread formal commitments to principles of equality and justice. I argue that prominent theories of oppression do not place enough weight on the question of how oppression is justified and concealed from us through blame-shifting, in ways that enable its persistence without our explicit approval of its systems. Scapegoating, a concept as old as the Bible, offers potential insight into the means through which we shift blame and avoid responsibility. However, my survey of the genealogy of scapegoating shows that existing conceptualizations of scapegoating are limited in their scope and cannot be applied to explain the endurance of oppression. I propose an ameliorative theory of scapegoating that accounts for deficiencies in prevailing theories of both oppression and scapegoating. Distinct from interpersonal theories and psychologistic analyses of scapegoating, my theory characterizes scapegoating according to its social function in oppression, thereby explaining structural dimensions that are not already captured by other accounts.With the motivation and ingredients in place, I develop my theory of scapegoating as made up of three sub-mechanisms: essentialization of marginalized groups as blameworthy, collective interest in protection against a threat, and social exclusion of the blamed. These sub-mechanisms work together to construct certain groups as scapegoats and encourage us to treat them accordingly through various structural and interpersonal means. I argue that scapegoating has important implications for the formation of social identities; namely, scapegoating constructs social identities in an oppressive arrangement that is largely hidden from us but informs our social and affective relations. By constructing some identities as essentially blameworthy and threatening, dominantly situated identity groups are encouraged to internalize a protected status, act together in defense of their status, and maintain systems of oppressive exclusion. Finally, I elaborate the epistemic dimensions of my theory of scapegoating to argue that scapegoating functions within our social imaginaries and structural epistemic practices. In particular, I focus on the ways that ignorance functions to maintain the scapegoat mechanism, and how scapegoating helps insulate structural forms of ignorance. I end by considering the potential for resistance to scapegoating. (shrink)
Why do we find agents less blameworthy when they face mitigating circumstances, and what does this show about philosophical theories of moral responsibility? We present novel evidence that the tendency to mitigate the blameworthiness of agents is driven both by the perception that they are less normatively competent—in particular, less able to know that what they are doing is wrong—and by the perception that their behavior is less attributable to their deep selves. Consequently, we argue that philosophers cannot rely on (...) the case strategy to support the Normative Competence theory of moral responsibility over the Deep Self theory. However, we also outline ways in which further empirical and philosophical work would shift the debate, by showing that there is a significant departure between ordinary concepts and corresponding philosophical concepts, or by focusing on a different type of coherence with ordinary judgments. (shrink)
Abstract: Many philosophers believe that people who are not capable of grasping the significance of moral considerations are not open to moral blame when they fail to respond appropriately to these considerations. I contend, however, that some morally blind, or 'psychopathic,' agents are proper targets for moral blame, at least on some occasions. I argue that moral blame is a response to the normative commitments and attitudes of a wrongdoer and that the actions of morally blind agents (...) can express the relevant blame-grounding attitudes insofar as these agents possess the capacity to make judgments about non-moral reasons. (shrink)
I begin by discussing the ways in which a would-be blamer's own prior conduct towards the person he seeks to blame can undermine his standing to blame her. This provides the basis for an examination of a particular kind of 'bar to trial' in the criminal law – of ways in which a state or a polity's right to put a defendant on trial can be undermined by the prior misconduct of the state or its officials. The examination (...) of this often neglected legal phenomenon illuminates some central features of the criminal law and the criminal process, and some of the preconditions for the legitimacy of the criminal law in a liberal republic. (shrink)
According to the thesis of doxastic wronging, our beliefs can non-derivatively wrong others. A recent criticism of this view claims that proponents of the doxastic wronging thesis have no principled grounds for denying that credences can likewise non-derivatively wrong, so they must countenance pervasive conflicts between morality and epistemic rationality. This paper defends the thesis of doxastic wronging from this objection by arguing that belief bears distinctive relationships to inquiry and blame that can explain why beliefs, but not credences, (...) can non-derivatively wrong. First, forming a belief (but not updating one’s credence) closes inquiry, and suspending judgment (but not updating one’s credence) opens inquiry. Consequently, beliefs can distinctively wrong others by prematurely closing inquiry or inappropriately opening inquiry. Second, beliefs (but not credences) can constitute blame. Unfittingly blaming someone can wrong them, and hence beliefs which constitute unfitting blame can distinctively wrong. In addition to defending the claim that only beliefs can non-derivatively wrong, this paper gestures towards an ethics of belief which attends to the relationship between belief and attitudes such as inquiry, faith, trust, and blame. (shrink)
This book shows why we can justify blaming people for their wrong actions even if free will turns out not to exist. Contrary to most contemporary thinking, we do this by focusing on the ordinary, everyday wrongs each of us commits, not on the extra-ordinary, "morally monstrous-like" crimes and weak-willed actions of some.
We tend not to blame those who eat meat--even if they are blameworthy for so doing. Some think that this is a moral failure on the part of vegetarians and vegans. My aim here, however, is to argue that this isn't so. In short, I argue that if it would be unreasonable to demand that someone behave in a particular way, then we shouldn’t blame her for failing to behave in that way. But it would be unreasonable to (...) demand that someone abstain from eating meat. So, we shouldn’t blame her for eating meat. (shrink)
Implicit bias training (IBT) is now frequently provided by employers, in order to raise awareness of the problems related to implicit biases, and of how to safeguard against discrimination that may result. However, as Atewologun et al (2018) have noted, there is very little systematicity in IBT, and there are many unknowns about what constitutes good IBT. One important issue concerns the tone of information provided regarding implicit bias. This paper engages this question, focusing in particular on the observation that (...) much bias training is delivered in exculpatory tone, emphasising that individuals are not to blame for possessing implicit biases. Normative guidance around IBT exhorts practitioners to adopt this strategy (Moss-Racusin et al 2014). However, existing evidence about the effects of moralized feedback about implicit bias is equivocal (Legault et al 2011; Czopp et al 2006). Through a series of studies, culminating in an experiment with a pre-registered analysis plan, we develop a paradigm for evaluating the impact of moralized feedback on participants’ implicit racial bias scores. We also conducted exploratory analyses of the impact on their moods, and behavioural intentions. Our results indicated that an exculpatory tone, rather than a blaming or neutral tone, did not make participants less resistant to changing their attitudes and behaviours. In fact, participants in the blame condition had significantly stronger explicit intentions to change future behaviour than those in the ‘no feedback’ condition (see experiment 3). These results indicate that considerations of efficacy do not support the need for implicit bias feedback to be exculpatory. We tease out the implications of these findings, and directions for future research. (shrink)
Michael S. Moore is a whole-hearted retributivist. The triumph of Mechanical Choices is that Moore provides a thoroughly physicalist, reductionist-friendly, compatibilist account of the features that make persons deserving of blame and punishment. Many who embrace scientific accounts of psychology worry that from this perspective the grounds for desert disappear; but Moore argues that folk psychological accounts of responsibility—such as those found in the criminal law—are either vindicated or not implicated by science. Moore claims that criminal punishment can be (...) justified by looking solely to moral desert, couched in folk terms. In this paper I argue that interpersonal blame and punishment and criminal blame and punishment hold people responsible in the same sense, and that directed moral blame in both forms aim to communicate something to the wrongdoer and generate a backward looking or retributive good. However, contra Moore, I will argue that instrumental aims are also important to justifying methods and degree of punishment within both realms. (shrink)
T.M. Scanlon has recently proposed what I term a ‘double attitude’ account of blame, wherein blame is the revision of one’s attitudes in light of another person’s conduct, conduct that we believe reveals that the individual lacks the normative attitudes we judge essential to our relationship with her. Scanlon proposes that this account justifies differences in blame that in turn reflect differences in outcome luck. Here I argue that although the double attitude account can justify blame’s (...) being sensitive to outcome luck, it cannot justify allocating blame differently when agents with the same attitudes differ only with respect to the luck-based outcomes of their actions. However, Scanlon’s own contractualist theory of morality can be invoked to show that the double attitude account is compatible with blame-based sanctions (e.g., compensation mandated when negligence or reckless result in harm) being sensitive to outcome luck. The resultant view of blame and luck remains desert-based while making sense of the common intuition that differences in outcome luck can matter to how lucky and unlucky individuals are justifiably treated. (shrink)
We provide experimental evidence that subjects blame others based on events they are not responsible for. In our experiment an agent chooses between a lottery and a safe asset; payment from the chosen option goes to a principal who then decides how much to allocate between the agent and a third party. We observe widespread blame: regardless of their choice, agents are blamed by principals for the outcome of the lottery, an event they are not responsible for. We (...) provide an explanation of this apparently irrational behavior with a delegated-expertise principal-agent model, the subjects’ salient perturbation of the environment. (shrink)