Genuine Responsibility

Michael McKenna

in Conversation and Responsibility

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

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This chapter takes up three objections to the conversational theory. One works from a putative counterexample involving an agent inhabiting a world with no one to hold him responsible. He beats his dog, knowing it is morally wrong. Is he not responsible? No, it is argued, not if he does not have any concept of what it would be to blame him by engaging in a kind of conversational exchange with him. A second objection holds that the reactive emotions are inessential to moral responsibility since emotionless beings could still hold responsible within the parameters of the conversational theory. The point is correct but does not undermine the theory. All that the theory is committed to is that the reactive attitudes have an important even if only contingent role to play in holding responsible. A third objection is that the theory is incomplete because it cannot explain all that is involved in blaming without committing to a desert thesis for blame whereby it is good or right to harm the blameworthy. But it is unclear that an adequate theory of responsibility must commit to a desert thesis, and it is also unclear what such a thesis really comes to.

Keywords: Robinson Crusoe example; blaming without emotion; desert; deserved blame; axiological desert; deontological desert

Chapter.  10643 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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