Fairness and the Architecture of Responsibility

Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 1:284-313 (2013)
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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.

Author Profiles

Dana Kay Nelkin
University of California, San Diego
David Brink
University of California, San Diego


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