Moral Responsibility and Quality of Will

Michael McKenna

in Conversation and Responsibility

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199740031
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918706 | DOI:
Moral Responsibility and Quality of Will

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This chapter reorients Strawson's theory by emphasizing the role of the agent who is responsible rather than the role of those holding responsible. The three central ingredients in Strawson's treatment are examined: the quality of will of a responsible agent; the reactive attitudes involved in holding responsible; and the pleas of those held responsible. Quality of will is developed in terms of the regard an agent has for others and for morally salient considerations. reactive attitudes, understood as response to an agent's quality of will, are explained in terms of public manifestations through alterations in otherwise ordinary practices of adult interpersonal life. Public manifestations of these emotions can in turn be normatively assessed. Pleas of excuse or justification are explained in terms of efforts to show that an agent is not blameworthy because she did not act from a morally objectionable quality of will. Exemptions show that an agent is incapacitated for responsible agency. The sense of (in)capacity at issue is accounted for not only in terms of the (in)capacity to understand what those who hold responsible communicate through the manifestation of reactive attitudes, but also in terms of the (in)capacity to hold others responsible.

Keywords: quality of will; reactive attitudes; moral emotions; public and private manifestations of emotions; excuses; justifications; exemptions; moral address

Chapter.  11739 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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