Is Moral Responsibility Essentially Interpersonal? A Reply to Zimmerman

The Journal of Ethics 21 (3):309-333 (2017)
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Abstract

According to Michael Zimmerman, no interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal captures a significant truth. He raises several worries about the Strawsonian view that moral responsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes and claims that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. He outlines three problems. First, the existence of self-reactive attitudes may be incompatible with the interpersonal nature of moral responsibility. Secondly, Zimmerman questions the significance of the interpersonal nature of moral responsibility, according to the Strawsonian view. Thirdly, he argues that that view may be taken to suggest the wrong kind of priority relation between ‘P is morally responsible’ and ‘it is appropriate to adopt some reactive attitude toward P’. I discuss each of these problems in turn and conclude that Strawsonians can respond to all three problems raised by Zimmerman. The Strawsonian view supports a significant interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal.

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