Strawson’s Account of Morality and its Implications for Central Themes in ‘Freedom and Resentment’

Philosophical Quarterly 74 (2):504-524 (2024)
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We argue that P. F. Strawson's hugely influential account of moral responsibility in ‘Freedom and Resentment’ (FR) is inextricably bound up with his barely known account of morality in ‘Social Morality and Individual Ideal’ (SMII). Reading FR through the lens of SMII has at least three far-reaching implications. First, the ethics–morality distinction in SMII gives content to Strawson's famous distinction between personal and moral reactive attitudes, which has often been thought to be a merely formal distinction. Second, the ethics–morality distinction sheds light on the scope of moral responsibility in FR, which is narrower than commentators think. Third, Strawson's discussion of morality shows that he was not insensitive to issues of power, as several critics have claimed. The link between morality and power helps to make clear that Strawson allows for criticism of our moral responsibility practices.

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