Chapter

A Rationale for the Rational Abilities View: Praise, Blame, and the Ought-Implies-Can Principle

Dana Kay Nelkin

in Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608560
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729638 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608560.003.0006
A Rationale for the Rational Abilities View: Praise, Blame, and the Ought-Implies-Can Principle

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This chapter offers a novel rationale for the rational abilities view that appeals to a moral principle often taken to be axiomatic, and referred to as the “Ought-Implies-Can Principle”. The basic idea is that if it is true that one ought to perform a certain action, one must be able to do so. For if an agent's action is blameworthy only if she did what she ought not do (or failed to do what she ought), and if the Ought-Implies-Can principle is true, then she can only be blameworthy if she could have done otherwise. Crucially, though, this argument only works for blameworthy, and not for praiseworthy or “neutral” actions. Thus, the argument is a key part of the larger case for the rational abilities account.

Keywords: Ought-Implies-Can Principle; responsibility; blameworthy; praiseworthy; rational abilities

Chapter.  7468 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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