Nelkin presents a simple and natural account of freedom and moral responsibility which responds to the great variety of challenges to the idea that we are free and responsible, before ultimately reaffirming our conception of ourselves as agents. Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility begins with a defense of the rational abilities view, according to which one is responsible for an action if and only if one acts with the ability to recognize and act for good reasons. The view is (...) compatibilist -- that is, on the view defended, responsibility is compatible with determinism -- and one of its striking features is a certain asymmetry: it requires the ability to do otherwise for responsibility when actions are praiseworthy, but not when they are blameworthy. In defending and elaborating the view, Nelkin questions long-held assumptions such as those concerning the relation between fairness and blame and the nature of so-called reactive attitudes such as resentment and forgiveness. Her argument not only fits with a metaphysical picture of causation -- agent-causation -- often assumed to be available only to incompatibilist accounts, but receives positive support from the intuitively appealing Ought Implies Can Principle, and establishes a new interpretation of freedom and moral responsibility that dovetails with a compelling account of our inescapable commitments as rational agents. (shrink)
According to the classical Doctrine of Double Effect, there is a morally significant difference between intending harm and merely foreseeing harm. Versions of DDE have been defended in a variety of creative ways, but there is one difficulty, the so-called “closeness problem”, that continues to bedevil all of them. The problem is that an agent's intention can always be identified in such a fine-grained way as to eliminate an intention to harm from almost any situation, including those that have been (...) taken to be paradigmatic instances in which DDE applies to intended harm. In this paper, we consider and reject a number of recent attempts to solve the closeness problem. We argue that the failure of these proposals strongly suggests that the closeness problem is intractable, and that the distinction between intending harm and merely foreseeing harm is not morally significant. Further, we argue that there may be a deeper reason why such attempts must fail: the rationale that makes the best fit with DDE, namely, an imperative not to aim at evil, is itself irredeemably flawed. While we believe that these observations should lead us to abandon further attempts to solve the closeness problem for DDE, we also conclude by showing how a related principle that is supported by a distinct rationale and avoids facing the closeness problem altogether nevertheless shares with DDE its most important features, including an intuitive explanation of a number of cases and a commitment to the relevance of intentions. (shrink)
The doctrine of double effect, together with other moral principles that appeal to the intentions of moral agents, has come under attack from many directions in recent years, as have a variety of rationales that have been given in favor of it. In this paper, our aim is to develop, defend, and provide a new theoretical rationale for a secular version of the doctrine. Following Quinn (1989), we distinguish between Harmful Direct Agency and Harmful Indirect Agency. We propose the following (...) version of the doctrine: that in cases in which harm must come to some in order to achieve a good (and is the least costly of possible harms necessary), the agent foresees the harm, and all other things are equal, a stronger case is needed to justify Harmful Direct Agency than to justify Harmful Indirect Agency. We distinguish between two Kantian rationales that might be given for the doctrine, a “dependent right” rationale, defended by Quinn, and an “independent right” rationale, which we defend. We argue that the doctrine and the “independent right” rationale for it are not vulnerable to counterexamples or counterproposals, and conclude by drawing implications for the larger debate over whether agents' intentions are in any way relevant to permissibility and obligation. (shrink)
In everyday life, we assume that there are degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Yet the debate about the nature of moral responsibility often focuses on the “yes or no” question of whether indeterminism is required for moral responsibility, while questions about what accounts for more or less blameworthiness or praiseworthiness are underexplored. In this paper, I defend the idea that degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness can depend in part on degrees of difficulty and degrees of sacrifice required for performing the (...) action in question. Then I turn to the question of how existing accounts of the nature of moral responsibility might be seen to accommodate these facts. In each case of prominent compatibilist and incompatibilist accounts that I consider, I argue that supplementation with added dimensions is required in order to account for facts about degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. For example, I argue that the reasons-responsiveness view of Fischer and Ravizza requires supplementation that takes us beyond even fine-grained measures of degrees of reasons-responsiveness in order to capture facts about degrees of difficulty to extend the reasons-responsiveness view by appealing to such measures). I conclude by showing that once we recognize the need for these additional parameters, we will be in a position to explain away at least some of the appeal of incompatibilist accounts of moral responsibility. (shrink)
This essay explores a conception of responsibility at work in moral and criminal responsibility. Our conception draws on work in the compatibilist tradition that focuses on the choices of agents who are reasons-responsive and work in criminal jurisprudence that understands responsibility in terms of the choices of agents who have capacities for practical reason and whose situation affords them the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. Our conception brings together the dimensions of normative competence and situational control, and we factor normative (...) competence into cognitive and volitional capacities, which we treat as equally important to normative competence and responsibility. Normative competence and situational control can and should be understood as expressing a common concern that blame and punishment presuppose that the agent had a fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. This fair opportunity is the umbrella concept in our understanding of responsibility, one that explains it distinctive architecture. (shrink)
In conclusion, then, the situationist literature provides a rich area of exploration for those interested in freedom and responsibility. Interestingly, it does not do so primarily because it is situationist in the sense of supporting the substantive thesis about the role of character traits. Rather it is because it makes us wonder whether we really do act on a regular basis with the particular normative, epistemic,and reactive capacities that are central to our identity as free and responsible agents.
I believe that the data is both fascinating and instructive, but in this paper I will resist the conclusion that we must give up Invariantism, or, as I prefer to call it, Uniﬁcationism. In the process of examining the challenging data and responding to it, I will try to draw some larger lessons about how to use the kind of data being collected. First, I will provide a brief description of some inﬂuential theories of responsibility, and then explain the threat (...) to them from the experimental results. Finally, I will set out my general approach to the data, as well as some speciﬁc suggestions about how to think about each set of experiments. I will conclude that philosophers searching for a uniﬁed theory need not give up, but that at the same time they can learn a great deal from the new data. (shrink)
Abstract: In this paper, I defend a view according to which one is responsible for one's actions to the extent that one has the ability to do the right thing for the right reasons. The view is asymmetrical in requiring the ability to do otherwise when one acts badly or for bad reasons, but no such ability in cases in which one acts well for good ones. Despite its intuitive appeal, the view's asymmetry makes it a target of both of (...) the main camps in the debate over responsibility. In addressing objections, I explore the relationship between fairness and responsibility, and the nature of the ability to do otherwise. (shrink)
There are powerful skeptical challenges to the idea that we are free. And yet, it seems simply impossible for us to shake the sense that we really are free. Some are convinced that the skeptical challenges are insurmountable and resign themselves to living under an illusion, while others argue that the challenges can be met. Even among those who believe that our sense of ourselves as free is at least roughly accurate, there are deep differences of opinion concerning what freedom (...) requires. On the one hand, there are “libertarians” about freedom, those who believe both that we are free and that freedom requires the falsity of determinism. On the other hand, there are “compatibilists”, those who believe that freedom is compatible with determinism. While there is an impressive variety of arguments and motivations available on all sides of the debate over freedom, our inescapable sense of ourselves as free has played a recurrent and key role in the debate, sometimes explicit and sometimes not. In this paper, I explore one way that our self-conception has been used by libertarians against compatibilists, and I argue that the reasoning employed is not convincing. The libertarian appeal to our self-conception hinges on locating in each of us an essential commitment to indeterminism, or, more cautiously, a commitment to something that, with the addition of a few plausible (if not self-evident) premises, entails indeterminism. The idea, then, is that we are “natural” indeterminists, seeing our actions as undetermined (or, again, more cautiously, as having qualities that, upon reflection, we can recognize entail the falsity of determinism). By itself, this is not an argument to the effect that we are correct in 1 believing that our actions are undetermined, or to the effect that freedom requires indeterminism. But if we are in fact natural indeterminists when it comes to our own actions, then that fact serves as important motivation for libertarianism, especially if our supposed natural indeterminism captures our unshakeable sense of freedom. Kant famously located our sense of freedom in our nature as rational agents, claiming that we must act under the “idea of freedom.”2 This has suggested to many that: (R) Rational deliberators, in virtue of their very nature as rational deliberators, must represent themselves as free.. (shrink)
There is a vast literature that seeks to uncover features underlying moral judgment by eliciting reactions to hypothetical scenarios such as trolley problems. These thought experiments assume that participants accept the outcomes stipulated in the scenarios. Across seven studies, we demonstrate that intuition overrides stipulated outcomes even when participants are explicitly told that an action will result in a particular outcome. Participants instead substitute their own estimates of the probability of outcomes for stipulated outcomes, and these probability estimates in turn (...) influence moral judgments. Our findings demonstrate that intuitive likelihoods are one critical factor in moral judgment, one that is not suspended even in moral dilemmas that explicitly stipulate outcomes. Features thought to underlie moral reasoning, such as intention, may operate, in part, by affecting the intuitive likelihood of outcomes, and, problematically, moral differences between scenarios may be confounded with non-moral intuitive probabilities. (shrink)
In this review essay on Mele's Free Will and Luck , I evaluate the 'daring soft libertarian' view presented in the heart of the book, and in particular the way that it provides an answer to the objection that introducing indeterminism into one's view of freedom merely adds an element of luck and so undermines freedom. I also compare the view's strengths and weaknesses to those of traditional libertarian views. Finally, I consider the 'zygote' argument that Mele takes to be (...) his reason for remaining agnostic about whether determinism is compatible with freedom, and argue that if one accepts the main arguments presented earlier in the book, one should not let this argument stand in the way of accepting compatibilism. (shrink)
In this paper, I engage with several of the intriguing theses Michael McKenna puts forward in his Conversation and Responsibility. For example, I examine McKenna’s claim that the fact that an agent is morally responsible for an action and the fact that an agent is appropriately held responsible explain each other. I go on to argue that despite the importance of the ability to hold people responsible, an agent’s being morally responsible for an action is explanatorily fundamental, and in this (...) sense responsibility is response-independent. I then explore some of the specific aspects of McKenna’s conversational theory before turning to his suggestion that the conversational nature of our responsibility practices gives us special kinds of reasons for accepting that agents are deserving of the harms of blame. Finally, I conclude by raising questions for his argument that the scope of blameworthy actions extends beyond that of impermissible actions. (shrink)
In recent decades, participants in the debate about whether we are free and responsible agents have tended with increasing frequency to begin their papers or books by fixing the terms “free” and “responsible” in clear ways to avoid misunderstanding. This is an admirable development, and while some misunderstandings have certainly been avoided, and positions better illuminated as a result, new and interesting questions also arise. Two ways of fixing these terms and identifying the underlying concepts have emerged as especially influential, (...) one that takes the freedom required for responsibility to be understood in terms of accountability and the other in terms of desert. In this paper, I start by asking: are theorists talking about the same things, or are they really participating in two different debates? Are desert and accountability mutually entailing? I tentatively conclude that they are in fact mutually entailing. Coming to this conclusion requires making finer distinctions among various more specific and competing accounts of both accountability and desert. Ultimately, I argue, that there is good reason to accept that accountability and desert have the same satisfaction conditions. (shrink)
In rejecting the Principle of AlternatePossibilities (PAP), Harry Frankfurt makes useof a special sort of counterfactual of thefollowing form: ``he wouldn''t have doneotherwise even if he could have''''. Recently,other philosophers (e.g., Susan Hurley (1999,2003) and Michael Zimmerman (2002)) haveappealed to a special class of counterfactualsof this same general form in defending thecompatibility of determinism andresponsibility. In particular, they claim thatit can be true of agents that even if they aredetermined, and so cannot do otherwise, theywouldn''t have done otherwise even if (...) they couldhave. Using as a central case an argument ofSusan Hurley''s, I point out that thecounterfactuals in question are both``interlegal'''' and ``indeterministic'''', and I raisedoubts about whether this special class ofcounterfactuals have clear truth conditions. Finally I suggest that acknowledging thesepoints leads to an appreciation of the realstrength of Frankfurt-style examples. (shrink)
Siewert identifies a special kind of conscious experience, phenomenal consciousness, that is the sort of consciousness missing in a variety of cases of blindsight. He then argues that phenomenal consciousness has been neglected by students of consciousness when it should not be. According to Siewert, the neglect is based at least in part on two false assumptions: phenomenal features are not intentional and phenomenal character is restricted to sensory experience. By identifying an essential tension in Siewert's characterization of phenomenal consciousness, (...) I argue that his case for denying and is at best incomplete. (shrink)
Psychopaths pose a puzzle. The pleasure they take in the pain of others suggests that they are the paradigms of blameworthiness, while their psychological incapacities provide them with paradigm excuses on plausible accounts of moral responsibility. I begin by assessing two influential responses: one that claims that psychopaths are morally blameworthy in one sense and not in another, and one that takes the two senses of blameworthiness to be inseparable. I offer a new argument that psychopaths, as understood in the (...) debate, are blameworthy in neither sense, while showing how the two senses of blameworthiness nevertheless come apart. (shrink)
In this paper, I begin by considering a traditional argument according to which it would be unfair to impose sanctions on people for performing actions when they could not do otherwise, and thus that no one who lacks the ability to do otherwise is responsible or blameworthy for his or her actions in an important sense. Interestingly, a parallel argument concluding that people are not responsible or praiseworthy if they lack the ability to do otherwise is not as compelling. Watson, (...) recently, offers in its stead an 'interpersonal' argument that appeals to a distributive notion of unfairness to conclude that praiseworthy actions, too, require the ability to do otherwise. I argue that this argument does not succeed. At this point, it seems that we have support for an asymmetrical treatment of blameworthy and praiseworthy actions. However, I conclude that while such an asymmetrical treatment may ultimately be correct, there is reason to doubt that considerations of fairness of sanction and reward support an asymmetry as well as an appeal to the 'ought-implies-can' principle. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend the general thesis that intentions are relevant not only to moral permissibility and impermissibility, but also to criminal wrongdoing, as well as a specific version of the Doctrine of Double Effect that we believe can help solve some challenging puzzles in the criminal law. We begin by answering some recent arguments that marginalize or eliminate the role of intentions as components of criminal wrongdoing [e.g., Alexander and Ferzan, Chiao, Walen ]. We then turn to some (...) influential theories that articulate a direct role for intentions [e.g., Duff, Husak ]. While we endorse the commitment to such a role for intentions, we believe that extant theories have not yet been able to adequately address certain objections or solve certain puzzles, such as that some attempt convictions require criminal intent when the crime attempted, if successful, requires only foresight, and that some intended harms appear to be no more serious than non-intended ones of the same magnitude, for example. Drawing on a variety of resources, including the specific version of the Doctrine of Double Effect we have developed in recent published work, we present solutions to these puzzles, which in turn provide mutual support for our general approach to the role of intentions and for thinking that using others as means is itself a special kind of wrongdoing. (shrink)
In this dissertation, I offer an interpretation and defense of the following argument for the claim that we--together with all rational deliberators--are free: rational deliberators necessarily possess a sense of freedom in virtue of their nature as rational deliberators, and if rational deliberators, in virtue of their nature as rational deliberators, necessarily possess a sense of freedom, then they are free. Therefore, rational deliberators are free. ;I offer two related arguments for , each of which is inspired by the Kantian (...) view that reason cannot be the source of an illusory idea. Each argument appeals to a different aspect of reason. The first turns on the idea that reason is a guide to truth, and so could not be such as to lead inevitably to a false sense of ourselves. The second turns on the idea that reason could not lead to an epistemic state which is unresponsive to reasons, and that if there were rational deliberators who were unfree, the sense of freedom would be unresponsive to reasons. ;I then canvass a variety of interpretations of , and argue that several of them rest on a mistaken conception of rational deliberation. I ultimately adopt and defend a reading of according to which all rational deliberators are epistemically committed to the proposition that their actions are up to them in such a way that they are accountable for them. This reading of rests on an understanding of rational deliberation as an activity, the point of which is to act for good reasons. Identifying the correct understanding of rational deliberation allows us to see that the very activity of rational deliberation is rationalized by a sense of freedom, and hence that is true. ;I consider a number of objections to the argument, including the claim that entails that a skeptic who believes that she is not free has contradictory beliefs, and, hence, is irrational. In reply, I argue that the attribution of a certain sort of irrationality in this case is intelligible and provides the best account of the skeptic's situation. (shrink)
This volume explores the principles that govern moral responsibility and legal liability for omissions. Contributors defend different views about the ground of moral responsibility, the conditions of legal liability for an omission to rescue, and the basis for accepting a " for omissions in the criminal law.
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