Valuing blame

In D. Justin Coates & Neal A. Tognazzini (eds.), Blame: Its Nature and Norms. Oxford University Press (2013)
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Blaming (construed broadly to include both blaming-attitudes and blaming-actions) is a puzzling phenomenon. Even when we grant that someone is blameworthy, we can still sensibly wonder whether we ought to blame him. We sometimes choose to forgive and show mercy, even when it is not asked for. We are naturally led to wonder why we shouldn’t always do this. Wouldn’t it be a better to wholly reject the punitive practices of blame, especially in light of their often undesirable effects, and embrace an ethic of unrelenting forgiveness and mercy? In this paper I seek to address these questions by offering an account of blame that provides a rationale for thinking that to wholly forswear blaming blameworthy agents would be deeply mistaken. This is because, as I will argue, blaming is a way of valuing, it is “a mode of valuation.” I will argue that among the minimal standards of respect generated by valuable objects, notably persons, is the requirement to redress disvalue with blame. It is not just that blame is something additional we are required to do in properly valuing, but rather blame is part of what that it is to properly value. Blaming, given the existence of blameworthy agents, is mode of valuation required by the standards of minimal respect. To forswear blame would be to fail value what we ought to value.

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