Meddlesome Blame and Negotiating Standing

Noûs (forthcoming)
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Blaming others for things that are not our business can attract charges of meddling and dismissals of blame. It is well known that such charges are often contentious because the content and applicability of anti-meddling norms can be difficult to nail down. This paper argues that another important source of contention is that it is often not settled in advance whether some wrongdoing is or is not the business of a would-be blamer. Thinking about the grounds of anti-meddling norms—privacy, intimacy, and respect for the victim—shows that it is sometimes up to those involved to set these boundaries. Rather than pointing out violation of a pre-established anti-meddling norm, charges of meddling may be aiming to put such a norm or boundary in place. An important upshot is that anti-meddling norms, and norms of blame more generally, are often up for negotiation. This has important implications for the ethics of blame. In addition, it helps us understand a common source of conflict in interpersonal relationships.

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Justin Snedegar
University of St. Andrews


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