Responsibility for Attitudes, Object-Given Reasons, and Blame

In Gerhard Ernst & Sebastian Schmidt (eds.), The Ethics of Belief and Beyond. Understanding Mental Normativity. Abingdon, UK: pp. 149-175 (2020)
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I argue that the problem of responsibility for attitudes is best understood as a puzzle about how we are responsible for responding to our object-given reasons for attitudes – i.e., how we are responsible for being (ir)rational. The problem can be solved, I propose, by understanding the normative force of reasons for attitudes in terms of blameworthiness. I present a puzzle about the existence of epistemic and mental blame which poses a challenge for the very idea of reasons for attitudes. We are left with three options: denying that there are any reasons for attitudes, opting for pragmatism about reasons for attitudes, or arguing that the challenge rests on a misunderstanding of the normative force of reasons for attitudes. I finally suggest a version of the last strategy. We can understand the normative force of reasons for attitudes, and thereby solve the problem of mental responsibility, by acknowledging that the way we blame each other for failing to respond correctly to our reasons for attitudes is different from the way we blame each other when one failed to respond correctly to reasons for action.

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Sebastian Schmidt
University of Zürich


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