Parole and the moral self: Moral change mitigates responsibility

Journal of Moral Education 48 (1):63-85 (2019)
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Recent studies demonstrate a moral self effect: continuity in moral values is crucial to ascriptions of identity in and over time. Since Locke, personal identity has been referred to as a ‘forensic’ concept, meaning that it plays a role in attributions of moral responsibility. If moral values are crucial to identity over time, then perceived changes in a person’s set of values may reduce responsibility for past deeds. To test this, we examined the moral self effect in parole contexts. In this empirical article, we conducted two experiments, in which participants were significantly more likely to grant parole to agents who underwent a moral change as opposed to mere behavioral change. We conclude by discussing possible objections and implications of these philosophical results for the Lockean view of personal identity.

Author Profiles

Javier Gomez-Lavin
Purdue University
Jesse J. Prinz
CUNY Graduate Center


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