PHIL 6471: Responsibility and Blame
Dr. Jada Twedt Strabbing
In this course, we will examine the nature of moral responsibility, the nature of blame, and the connection between them.
In the first part of the course, we will look at seminal papers that seek to elucidate what it is to be morally responsible independently of our practice of blame and praise. In particular, we will examine views that assume that an agent must be free in order to responsible and that seek to determine the relevant sense of freedom. For example, does moral responsibility require freedom in the sense of the ability to do otherwise, freedom in the sense of the ability to get what you want, or something else?
In his landmark paper “Freedom and Resentment,” Peter Strawson rejects the idea that we can understand what it is to be morally responsible independently of our practice of praise and blame. Instead, he argues that our responsibility practice is basic, and we must understand what it is to be responsible in relation to it. In the second part of the course, we will examine Strawson’s paper and explore some views of responsibility that follow Strawson’s lead in taking our responsibility practice to be basic. We will ask whether such views are plausible and whether they avoid the traditional worry about the compatibility of moral responsibility and determinism. We will also ask whether they adequately capture our practice of blame and praise.
In the third part of the course, we will delve deeper into the nature of blame. Is it a certain type of judgment, a reactive emotion like resentment, or something else? Does it express a demand or issue a protest? Is blame a good thing, or would our moral lives be better if we got rid of it? We will answer these questions with an eye toward further elucidating the nature of moral responsibility.
1) Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2003.
2) D. Justin Coates and Neal A. Tognazzini (eds.), Blame: Its Nature and Norms, Oxford University Press, 2012.
3) George Sher, In Praise of Blame, Oxford University Press, 2006.
4) R. Jay Wallace, Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments, Harvard University
Assessment: Final Paper
I am considering additional options for assessment, such as presentations or short papers.
Topic 1: Moral Responsibility and the Metaphysics of Freedom
Session 1: Does moral responsibility require the ability to do otherwise?
Jan 14 Frankfurt – “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” (Watson)
Widerker – “Libertarianism and Frankfurt’s Attack on the
Principle of Alternative Possibilities” (Watson)
Session 2: Does moral responsibility require the ability to get what you really want?
Jan 28 Frankfurt – “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person” (Watson)
Watson – “Free Agency” (Watson)
Session 3: Does moral responsibility require the ability to get it right morally?
Feb 4 Susan Wolf – “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility” (Watson) Watson – “Two Faces of Responsibility” (Blackboard)
Topic 2: Responsibility from Within our Moral Practice
Session 4: Strawson’s View
Feb 11 Strawson – “Freedom and Resentment” (Watson) Pereboom – “Living Without Free Will” (Blackboard)
Wallace – Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments, Chapter 4 (optional?)
Session 5: Wallace’s View
Feb 19 Wallace – Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments, selections from the Introduction & Chapters 1-3
Session 6: Wallace’s Compatibilism
Feb 25 Wallace – Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments, Chapters 5 & 6
Rosen – “The Case for Incompatibilism”
Session 7: Scanlon’s Theory
Mar 4 Scanlon – “Blame”, Chapter 4 of his Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, and Blame (Blackboard?)
Scanlon – “Interpreting Blame” (Coates and Tognazzini)
Session 8: Sher’s Theory
Mar 18 Selections from In Praise of Blame
Topic 3: The Nature of Blame
Session 9: Sher’s View of Blame
Mar 25 Selections from In Praise of Blame
Session 10: Blame, Demands, and Protest
Apr 8 A. Smith – “Moral Blame and Moral Protest” (Coates and Tognazzini) C. Macnamara – “Taking Demands Out of Blame” (C & T)
Session 11: The Value of Blame
Apr 15 Victoria McGeer – “Civilizing Blame” (C & T)
Session 12: TBD based on student interest
Session 13: TBD based on student interest