The force and fairness of blame

Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):115–148 (2004)
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In this paper I consider fairness of blaming a wrongdoer. In particular, I consider the claim that blaming a wrongdoer can be unfair because blame has a certain characteristic force, a force which is not fairly imposed upon the wrongdoer unless certain conditions are met--unless, e.g., the wrongdoer could have done otherwise, or unless she is someone capable of having done right, or unless she is able to control her behavior by the light of moral reasons. While agreeing that blame has a characteristic force, I am skeptical of this charge of unfairness. My skepticism concerns itself less with the particular conditions of fairness proposed than with the idea that blame can be rendered unfair by its characteristic force. If to blame a person were simply to perform certain intentional actions, then, as we will see, blame could be rendered unfair by its force. But to blame a person is not just to act in certain ways. It is, at least in large part, to make certain judgments or adopt certain attitudes. However, it is unclear how these attitudes or judgments carry "force"? and also unclear whether they can be rendered unfair by their force. Examining these issues, I will suggest that much of the force of blame is found in a set of judgments--most centrally, the judgment that one person failed to show proper regard for others. But, I will argue, once it is granted that such judgments are true, their characteristic force cannot render them unfair.
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