Compatibilism and Moral Claimancy: An Intermediate Path to Appropriate Blame

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (1):158-186 (2012)
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Abstract

In this paper, I explore a new approach to the problem of determinism and moral responsibility. This approach involves asking when someone has a compelling claim to exemption against other members of the moral community. I argue that it is sometimes fair to reject such claims, even when the agent doesn’t deserve, in the sense of basic desert, to be blamed for her conduct. In particular, when an agent’s conduct reveals that her commitment to comply with the standards of the moral community is deficient, and when her demand for exemption further exemplifies this deficiency, she cannot complain of unfair treatment if her demand is rejected. To support this contention, I argue that we are sometimes justified in rejecting otherwise valid moral appeals on the grounds that they are cynically motivated, especially when an agent merely seeks to exploit our commitment to comply with reasonable interpersonal standards. An advantage of this approach is that it affords compatibilists a middle path, allowing them to defend our practice of blaming on non-consequentialist grounds of fairness, even as they acknowledge the force of arguments for incompatibilism about basic desert

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Seth Shabo
University of Delaware

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