On being and holding responsible

Philosophical Explorations 13 (2):129-140 (2010)
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In his Responsibility and the moral sentiments , Wallace develops the idea that we should think of what it is to be morally responsible for an act in terms of norms for holding someone responsible for that act. Smith has recently claimed that Wallace's approach and those like it are 'fundamentally misguided'. She says that such approaches make the mistake of incorporating conditions for 'actively blaming' others into the basic conditions for being responsible, when in fact the conditions for active blame 'go beyond' the basic conditions. In this essay, I argue that Smith's otherwise illuminating discussion of these 'Normativist' approaches does not undermine them. Specifically, I maintain that being actively blamable by certain persons with the relevant standing is actually constitutive of being responsible for at least some acts. By distinguishing between persons with different sorts of standing, a Normativist approach can avoid Smith's challenge. My larger aim is thus to clarify and defend the Normativist approach

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Chauncey Maher
Dickinson College


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