Strawsonian Moral Responsibility, Response-Dependence, and the Possibility of Global Error

Midwest Studies in Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Various philosophers have wanted to move from a (P.F.) “Strawsonian” understanding of the “practices of moral responsibility” to a non-skeptical result. I focus on a strategy moving from a “response-dependent” theory of responsibility. I aim to show that a key analogy associated with this strategy fails to support a compatibilist result. It seems clear that nothing could show that nothing we have been laughing at has really been funny. If “the funny” is similar to “the blameworthy”, then perhaps it would follow that nothing could show that no one we have ever blamed has really been blameworthy. The comparison is interesting, but inconclusive: even if we grant that these properties are normatively similar, the latter has substantive empirical presuppositions, whereas the former does not. One important upshot: even if the standards operative in our practices cannot be mistaken, it could nevertheless be that no one has ever met these standards Ruling out this possibility seemingly requires re-engaging in all of the so-called "metaphysical" debates Strawsonians are keen to avoid.

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Patrick Todd
University of Edinburgh


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