Being and holding responsible: Reconciling the disputants through a meaning-based Strawsonian account

Philosophical Studies 179 (6):1893-1913 (2021)
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A fundamental question in responsibility theory concerns the relation between being responsible and our practices of holding responsible. ‘Strawsonians’ often claim that being responsible is somehow a function of our practices of holding responsible, while others think that holding responsible depends on being responsible, and still others think of being and holding responsible as interdependent. Based on a Wittgensteinian reading of Strawson, I develop an account of the relation between being and holding responsible which respects major concerns of all parties in this debate. I characterize the way in which being responsible depends on holding responsible as genealogical, and the way in which holding responsible depends on being responsible as justificatory. I show how my account cuts across received ways of carving up the debate, and how it allows for all the kinds of fallibility about moral responsibility that are worth wanting.

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