A Unified Account of the Moral Standing to Blame

Noûs 53:347-374 (2019)
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Recently, philosophers have turned their attention to the question, not when a given agent is blameworthy for what she does, but when a further agent has the moral standing to blame her for what she does. Philosophers have proposed at least four conditions on having “moral standing”: 1. One’s blame would not be “hypocritical”. 2. One is not oneself “involved in” the target agent’s wrongdoing. 3. One must be warranted in believing that the target is indeed blameworthy for the wrongdoing. 4. The target’s wrongdoing must some of “one’s business”. These conditions are often proposed as both conditions on one and the same thing, and as marking fundamentally different ways of “losing standing.” Here I call these claims into question. First, I claim that conditions (3) and (4) are simply conditions on different things than are conditions (1) and (2). Second, I argue that condition (2) reduces to condition (1): when “involvement” removes someone’s standing to blame, it does so only by indicating something further about that agent, viz., that he or she lacks commitment to the values that condemn the wrongdoer’s action. The result: after we clarify the nature of the non-hypocrisy condition, we will have a unified account of moral standing to blame. Issues also discussed: whether standing can ever be regained, the relationship between standing and our "moral fragility", the difference between mere inconsistency and hypocrisy, and whether a condition of standing might be derived from deeper facts about the "equality of persons".

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Patrick Todd
University of Edinburgh


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