Conversation and Responsibility

Michael McKenna

in Conversation and Responsibility

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199740031
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918706 | DOI:
Conversation and Responsibility

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This chapter sets out the conversational theory of moral responsibility. it is established that an agent's incapacity to hold others responsible incapacitates her for being responsible. is because reasons presented to others in holding them responsible are reason to which one who is responsible must be sensitive. interdependence is like the relation between a speaker's ability to communicate with others and her ability to understand others who communicate with her. the latter ability impedes the former. Building on the analogy, the conversational theory is presented and defended. An agent's actions are bearers of meaning that are indicative of her quality of will. Those who hold her responsible respond to her as if engaging in a conversation that the responsible agent initiated by way of her action. It is then open to the agent to extend that “conversation” by offering a plea, accepting responsibility, apologizing, or in some other way. The meaning at issue, agent meaning, is like speaker meaning. Speaker meaning can come apart from sentence meaning; likewise, agent meaning can come apart from action meaning, where the latter is a function of the kind of quality of will typically associated with types of actions.

Keywords: conversation; speaker meaning; agent meaning; sentence meaning; action meaning; expressive theories of moral responsibility; communicative theories of moral responsibility; Gary Watson; reactive attitudes as incipient forms of communication

Chapter.  12543 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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