A Comprehensive Account of Blame: Self-Blame, Non-Moral Blame, and Blame for the Non-Voluntary

In Andreas Carlsson (ed.), Self-Blame and Moral Responsibility. New York, USA: Cambridge University Press (2022)
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Blame is multifarious. It can be passionate or dispassionate. It can be expressed or kept private. We blame both the living and the dead. And we blame ourselves as well as others. What’s more, we blame ourselves, not only for our moral failings, but also for our non-moral failings: for our aesthetic bad taste, gustatory self-indulgence, or poor athletic performance. And we blame ourselves both for things over which we exerted agential control (e.g., our voluntary acts) and for things over which we lacked such control (e.g., our desires, beliefs, and intentions). I argue that, despite this manifest diversity in our blaming practices, it’s possible to provide comprehensive account of blame. Indeed, I propose a set of necessary and sufficient conditions that aims to specify blame’s extension in terms of its constitution as opposed to its function. And I argue that this proposal has a number of advantages beyond accounting for blame in all its disparate forms. For one, it can account for the fact that one’s having had control over whether one was to φ is a necessary condition for one’s being fittingly blamed for having φ-ed. For another, it can account for why, unlike fitting shame, fitting blame is always deserved, which in turn explains why there is something morally problematic about ridding oneself of one’s fitting self-blame (e.g., one’s fitting guilt).

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Douglas W. Portmore
Arizona State University


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