Reasons-Responsiveness and Moral Responsibility: The Case of Autism

The Journal of Ethics 20 (4):401-418 (2016)
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In this paper, I consider a novel challenge to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza’s reasons-responsiveness theory of moral responsibility. According to their view, agents possess the control necessary for moral responsibility if their actions proceed from a mechanism that is moderately reasons-responsive. I argue that their account of moderate reasons-responsiveness fails to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for moral responsibility since it cannot give an adequate account of the responsibility of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Empirical evidence suggests that autistic individuals demonstrate impairments in counterfactual thinking, and these impairments, I argue, are such that they cast doubt on Fischer and Ravizza’s construal of moderate reasons-responsiveness. I then argue that modifying the view in order to accommodate individuals with ASD forces them to defend a strong reasons-responsive account despite the fact that they explicitly deny that such an account can adequately characterize what it is to be morally responsible for one’s actions.

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Nathan Stout
University Hospitals, Cleveland Medical Center


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