Attributionism and degrees of Praiseworthiness

Philosophical Studies 179 (10):3071-3087 (2022)
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An increasingly popular theory of moral responsibility, Attributionism, identifies attitudes as the locus of direct responsibility. And yet, two agents with qualitatively identical attitudes may differ in their responsibility due to a difference in whether they act on those attitudes. On the most plausible interpretation of Attributionism, attitude duplicates differ in their responsibility only with respect to the scope of what they’re responsible for: one agent is responsible for only their attitudes, while the other is responsible for their attitudes and for acting in a way that reflects those attitudes. Against this, I argue that attitude duplicates may also differ with respect to their degrees of praiseworthiness, and that this is best explained by either the effort or sacrifice instantiated in one’s actions—explanations unavailable to Attributionism. If this is correct, then Attributionism fails to provide an adequate account of praiseworthiness, and therefore fails as a theory of moral responsibility.

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Daniel J. Miller
West Virginia University


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