Reorienting Strawson's Theory of Moral Responsibility

Michael McKenna

in Conversation and Responsibility

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199740031
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918706 | DOI:
Reorienting Strawson's Theory of Moral Responsibility

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P. F. Strawson's theory of moral responsibility is assumed to involve three theses. First, morally responsibility is interpersonal because the nature of being responsible is essentially linked to the practices and norms of holding responsible. Second, holding responsible is to be understood by reference to morally reactive attitudes, which are a collection of emotions that are elicited in response to the perceived quality of will in the behavior of a morally responsible agent. Third, holding responsible is more fundamental or basic than being responsible, and so the latter should be explained in terms of the former. In this chapter, the first two Strawsonian theses are advanced, while the third is rejected. The first two are developed in a manner consistent with there being facts about being responsible and about the propriety of holding responsible. These interpersonal features of the theory are explained by comparison with a ledger theory of responsibility whereby being morally responsible is simply a matter of facts about an agent obtaining independently of considerations of holding morally responsible. The third is rejected in favor of explicating being and holding responsible as mutually dependent such that neither is metaphysically more basic than the other.

Keywords: P.F. Strawson; interpersonal theory; ledger theory; reactive attitudes; Gary Watson; R. Jay Wallace; normative interpretation; extreme metaphysical interpretation; modest metaphysical interpretation

Chapter.  11421 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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