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Michael McKenna
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Hey, Congratulations, Manuel! It's a wonderful honor!
Dear Colleagues, A conference, Illuminating Reasons: An Inquiry into the Phenomenology of Moral Experience, will take place October 16-18, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona, featuring prominent scholars from the fields of philosophy and psychology. The conference is part of a project being conducted by Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons of the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Indeed, it was a great month! Thank you, Randy.
Toggle Commented Jun 1, 2014 on Signing Off at Flickers of Freedom
Hi Dave, I think Randy’s comment answers your question to me effectively. This is what I had in mind, Randy. Thanks! Justin Caouette: Sorry I did not respond to you earlier. I appreciate what you had in mind when you wrote of the fittingness of an attitude and the fittingness of the expression of an attitude. (Matt King had some useful things to say about this in Randy’s previous post.) But as important as that is, I take that to be orthogonal to what is at issue here. Let me give just one example: Dave Shoemaker thinks that disdain is a fitting response to a shoddy or cowardly act for which one is blameworthy in the case of attributability, and that the disdain is directed at an expression of what the attributability-blameworthy agent stands for. It is a response to a feature of that agent’s character as revealed in her unvirtuous action. Resentment, on the other hand, is suited for accountability responsibility and is a response to poor quality of will in the sense of poor regard for others. It has a different target, different relevance and success conditions, and so on. Hence, we have reason to think we have here a genuinely different kind of responsibility. I was basically seeking a supplementary argument to help support a pluralist view like his.
Toggle Commented May 27, 2014 on Kinds of Moral Responsibility at Flickers of Freedom
Hi Randy, Yes, that’s the idea. Of course, you were able to express it in a brief paragraph. I nearly wrote a brief article. And as for the monist’s response you suggested, that does seem to me to be digging in one’s heels. I confess, prior to reading Dave Shoemaker’s book manuscript, I was inclined toward monism and toward the view that the only genuine kind of moral responsibility is that identified by the notion of accountability. (I hint at this a bit in my book without committing to it. Taking up a view sketched by Neil Levy, I considered the possibility that the other putative kinds really just identify a kind of moral agency, not morally responsible agency.) But Dave has convinced me that there are indeed different kinds of moral responsibility. It seems to me the distinct kinds of moral responsibility he identifies can pass the test that I am proposing.
Toggle Commented May 27, 2014 on Kinds of Moral Responsibility at Flickers of Freedom
Hi Randy and Dave, This is an interesting exchange between you two. Might the following observation help? In paradigmatic cases of accountability-blameworthiness, an agent does morally wrong. As most accept, there is a distinct fitting blaming response to the agent over and above any response in light of the wrong act. Think in terms of the subject of responsibility and the object of responsibility—the agent and the act, respectively. Note two things: First, this blaming response involves an evaluation the agent in light of her wrong action. It is what Ish Haji calls an agent-based evaluation. It is not exhausted in the evaluation of her action’s moral wrongness (the action-based evaluation). It involves a distinct evaluation, one reflecting poorly on her in relation to her wrong act. Strawsonians would say that in doing wrong her will or regard for someone or something was poor, ill, bad, or insufficiently good. (Note, these are axiological terms about her will, not deontic ones about her action.) Second, sometimes an agent is excused for her wrongdoing, and so it is judged that she is not blameworthy even though she has done wrong. In those cases, there are still reasons to respond to the agent in certain ways. (She did wrong, after all, even if she was excused.) And the wrong-doing agent also has reasons to respond to her own wrongdoing, even if it is granted that she really is not blameworthy for having done it. (Recall Bernard Williams’s notion of moral residue.) So, some sort of non-blaming response remains fitting in virtue of the evaluation of the (putative) object of responsibility, the act, regardless of whether the subject of responsibility, the agent, really is blameworthy. Now consider Dave’s own appeal to attributability-responsibility and answerability-responsibility as distinct kinds of responsibility from accountability-responsibility. One way to show, I think, that we genuinely have different kinds of responsibility is to ask whether there are distinct fitting evaluations of and responses to the subject of x-type of responsibility in relation to distinct evaluations of and responses to the objects of x-type of responsibility. Moreover, can those come apart? Consider, for instance, attributability-responsibility for some act. Take van Invagen’s example of a colleague who did a shoddy thing, and suppose that what is at issue (as Watson suggests) is attributability-responsibility. Now, is there a distinct sort of evaluation of and fitting response to the agent as the subject of responsibility for the act over and above a distinct sort of evaluation of and response to the object of responsibility (in this case, the act itself which is alleged to be shoddy)? Moreover, can these come apart? Can we make sense of the agent’s act being shoddy but her not being attributability-blameworthy for doing the shoddy thing? And are these subjects and objects of responsibility different in kind from the sort pertaining to, say, accountability-responsibility? Do they warrant different sorts of social alterations to our practices? If so, I think we have grounds for identifying a genuinely distinct type of responsibility. (Sorry that was so long.)
Toggle Commented May 26, 2014 on Kinds of Moral Responsibility at Flickers of Freedom
Hi Randy, Yeah that does not seem correct; it would seem that my expression might still be deserved. But what about this: While my expression of blame toward you might remain deserved, it might still be all-things-considered not warranted in light of your guilt, and hence your self-blame.
Hi Randy, Thanks for your replies, which were all characteristically thoughtful. About your suggestion that the guilt that is (lest us grant) deserved is not self-inflicted—not something the wrongdoer *does* to herself—that is a great point as well. I did indeed misrepresent you, and you are correct, I think, that your considered view makes a desert thesis even more appealing and even harder for a critic of desert theses to resist. Here is a further thought, building on your suggestion: A distinct topic not taken up by your modest proposal is whether it is ever permissible for others to blame overtly because the one who is blameworthy deserves to be blamed. Here the question is a matter of whether it is permissible to inflict a harm (or suffering) on another by overtly blaming her in a way that is intentionally directed at her. You do not deny that there might be merit to such a claims about desert, only that the justification for them would be more burdensome. I agree. Suppose we have a justification that rises to this challenge. I would like to suggest that one defeater for the judgment that a wrongdoer deserved the (harmful) blaming of another is that the wrongdoer feels guilty. The harm (or suffering) is thus already “received” by the wrongdoer in this way, and so the blaming other now has reason not to “pile on”. On the other hand, when the wrongdoer does not feel guilty (knowing that she acted wrongly), then the blame of others might be called for.
Hi Randy, Thanks for another great post! I see you prefer the term ‘suffer’. I guess I am inclined to agree with you about your substantive thesis while quibbling a bit about the terminology. I myself think the term ‘suffer’ is risky. It can suggest a degree of severity that in some contexts is over-exaggerated. My worry is that opponents of a basic desert thesis might be against it because they find it barbaric or vengeful or cruel. But if, as you suggest, suffering is just a matter of finding something unpleasant, then I have no objections on this score. I’ll just offer two further points: First, I have a hard time seeing the force of the contention that we can get judgments of desert *from* judgments of fittingness. I am inclined to think it is the other way around. That is, I would think that deserving a response of blame, call B, is one way of accounting for the sense in which a response of B is fitting; B is fitting because deserved, not vice versa. But let me say here, I really am open to being corrected. Can you help me see the force of your proposal, please? Second, one thing I find very compelling about your view is that it makes the most appealing blaming response the reflexive case of self-blame by way of the emotion of guilt. That just seems right to me: It is better that a wrongdoer self-inflict the suffering (I would say harm) she deserves by blaming herself as in contrast with others blaming her in a way that would give rise to the wrongdoer suffering to the same degree. Furthermore, it also seems that the justificatory burden is higher when it is another person who is doling out the deserved suffering. (Or is it? I suppose some might reply back that there is something at least as appealing about the idea that the one who is wrongly harmed is at least equally well-suited to harm the wrongdoer by blaming her.)
Hi Bruce, Thanks for your question. I can see why you ask. Sorry I wasn’t clearer. I hope this helps: I mean to be discussing what Randy is discussing. Adopting Randy’s terminology (for the moment), I am claiming that learning of Ernie’s history warrants lessening of the venom and vengeance in a response that one might otherwise think is fitting for Ernie. That is consistent with thinking *some* sort of harmful response (with some amount of venom and vengeance) *is* fitting. Moreover, I am open to understanding that relation of fittingness in terms of what Pereboom and others would call basic desert. Would this be sufficient for what you call “strong retributive moral responsibility”? If so, then I would say that the sort of mitigation that I am granting is called for by reflecting on Ernie’s case (or a case like Pereboom’s Case 2) does not ultimately undermine strong retributive moral responsibility.
Toggle Commented May 17, 2014 on Hard Line, Soft Heart at Flickers of Freedom
I just wanted to comment on the last Pacific APA and to thank Kevin Timpe for doing an incredible job with it. I'm still high on agency, free will, and moral responsibility talks. I have always loved the Pacific meetings, but Kevin, no doubt with the help of many others,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Dear Flickerers, I am writing to let people know that the collection, Free Will and Reactive Attitudes (Ashgate Press, 2008), edited by Paul Russell and me, is now available at a reasonable price. Paul and I have been able to renegotiate the price, and you can now purchase it for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Dear Flickerers, I am writing to let people know that the collection, Free Will and Reactive Attitudes (Ashgate Press, 2008), edited by Paul Russell and me, is now available at a reasonable price. Paul and I have been able to renegotiate the price, and you can now purchase it for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2014 at Flickers of Freedom
Hi All, This post is related to my last post, although only indirectly. As most everyone is aware, in theories of moral responsibility there is a divide between two different approaches. (Of course, I do not mean to suggest that these categories exhaustively capture all contenders.) The Strawsonian, interpersonal approach... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
Hi All, Look, my time as guest blogger is winding down, and this time of year many of us are caught up with final exams, dissertation defenses, and all that stuff. Lots of deadlines, and little time for blogging. So I thought I'd wrap up with a series of lighter... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
I defend a reasons-responsive theory of free will. As a compatibilist, I am committed to showing that an adequate account of such freedom can be advanced without at any point requiring the falsity of determinism. Roughly, reasons-responsive theories account for free will in terms of an agent’s responsiveness to an... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
Derk Pereboom and I agree that the audience whose intuitions should matter in our PPR debate over his version of the manipulation argument--his Four Case argument--is the audience of open-minded and undecided inquirers. These inquirers are undecided about whether determinism undermines freedom and responsibility, and they are open to persuasion... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
Greetings everyone! Thanks to Thomas Nadelhoffer for inviting me to host the Flickers of Freedom blog this month. I know. It’s April Fools’ Day. Don’t think it’s not dawned on why Thomas would find it especially fitting for me to start officially hosting today. Ha ha! Very funny, Thomas. Just... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
So Bruce Waller and Justin Capes are pleading for something to discuss in the month of March, and they've asked me to start early (I am not slated to begin until April). Sorry, I cannot do much right now, but figured I could pose a question about our use of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
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Mar 5, 2013