Blame: Taking it Seriously

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):473-481 (2011)
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Abstract

Philosophers writing on moral responsibility inherit from P.F. Strawson a particular problem space. On one side, it is shaped by consequentialist accounts of moral criticism on which blame is justified, if at all, by its efficacy in influencing future behavior in socially desirable ways. It is by now a common criticism of such views that they suffer a "wrong kind of reason" problem. When blame is warranted in the proper way, it is natural to suppose this is because the target deserves blame – thus opposing to consequentialist views of blame desert-based views. The latter, however, raise worries that blame is a form of retributive sanction whose justificatory burdens cannot be met. I evaluate T.M. Scanlon's recent attempt to maneuver this space. In doing so, I argue that although Scanlon’s relationship-impairment model of blame has clear advantages over consequentialist and desert-based alternatives, it fails: (1) to adequately appreciate the significance of person-focused emotional attitudes in constituting persons as agents subject to a nexus of normative expectations and demands, and (2) to recognize that a victim may owe nearly nothing *to* a blameworthy agent while nonetheless retaining unconditional moral obligations to act in certain ways (and forego acting in other ways) toward him.

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Michelle Mason Bizri
University of Minnesota

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