The Strains of Involvement

In Randolph Clarke, Michael McKenna & Angela M. Smith (eds.), The Nature of Moral Responsibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 19-44 (2015)
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Analytic philosophers have a tendency to forget that they are human beings, and one of the reasons that P. F. Strawson’s 1962 essay, “Freedom and Resentment”, has been so influential is that it promises to bring discussions of moral responsibility back down to earth. Strawson encouraged us to “keep before our minds...what it is actually like to be involved in ordinary interpersonal relationships”, which is, after all, the context in which questions about responsibility arise in the first place. In this essay I explore what we can learn about ordinary interpersonal relationships from three works of literature – Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. My intention is to try to heed Strawson’s advice without imposing upon the data any particular theoretical agenda, and my hope is that the data collected will prove useful for future theorizing about responsibility.

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Neal Tognazzini
Western Washington University


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