Praise as Moral Address

Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 7 (2021)
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While Strawsonians have focused on the way in which our “reactive attitudes”—the emotions through which we hold one another responsible for manifestations of morally significant quality of regard—express moral demands, serious doubt has been cast on the idea that non-blaming reactive attitudes direct moral demands to their targets. Building on Gary Watson’s proposal that the reactive attitudes are ‘forms of moral address’, this paper advances a communicative view of praise according to which the form of moral address distinctive of the praise-manifesting reactive attitudes (approbation, gratitude) is moral invitation. Like moral demand, moral invitation is a species of directive address presupposing its target’s possession of distinctive agential capacities and, when valid, provides its addressee with reason to give the addressor’s directive discursive uptake. While blame’s demands issue imperatival reasons for compliance (e.g. to acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize, etc.), praise’s invitations provide discretionary reasons to accept credit in jointly valuing the significance of the act for the praiser. In addition to its phenomenological plausibility and contribution to the already fecund Watsonian-cum-Strawsonian program, the invitational view helps render intelligible the power of our praise practices to facilitate the formation and enrichment of our interpersonal relationships.

Author's Profile

Daniel Telech
Lund University


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