Conversation and the Scope of Moral Responsibility

Michael McKenna

in Conversation and Responsibility

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

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This chapter attends to questions of scope. The conversational theory explains blaming on analogy with a conversational response. Central to the explanation is the relation between blamer and blamed. But we often blame in the absence of the blamed, for example, blaming the dead. The theory explains these cases as parasitic on the fundamental cases in which blame is able to take on its communicative role as a response to the one blamed. Yet a different question of scope has to do with the range of things a person can be responsible for. Some contend that an agent is only blameworthy for acts that involve violations of moral obligations or moral wrongdoing. Others claim that one can be blameworthy for bad or vicious acts as well. An even more inclusive view is that one can also be blameworthy for the nonvoluntary, such as character traits not freely acquired. The conversational theory makes room for the inclusive view while attempting to accommodate the intuitive support for the more restrictive thesis. Just as different kinds of conversations have different norms that are more or less restrictive, so too our moral responsibility practices have different norms, some more and some less restrictive.

Keywords: blaming dead; blaming in absence of blamed; scope of moral responsibility; moral obligation and blame; suberogatory and blame; nonvoluntarism; Robert Adams; Angela Smith

Chapter.  16005 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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