No document with DOI “10.1.1.852.8309”
Skepticism about moral responsibility, or what is more commonly referred to as moral responsibility skepticism, refers to a family no document with DOI “10.1.1.852.8309” views that all take seriously the possibility that human beings are never morally responsible for their actions in a particular but pervasive sense. Critics of these views tend to focus both on the arguments for skepticism about moral responsibility and on the implications of such views. They worry that adopting such a view would have dire consequences for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law.
For an agent to be morally responsible for an action in this sense is for it to be hers in such a way that she would deserve to be blamed if she understood that it was morally wrong, and she would deserve to be praised if she understood that it was morally exemplary. Importantly, moral responsibility skepticism, while doubting or denying basic desert moral responsibility, is consistent with agents being responsible in others senses. For instance, attributability responsibility is about actions or attitudes being properly attributable to, or reflective of, an agent’s self. That is, we are responsible for our actions in the attributability sense only when those actions reflect our identity as moral agents, i. In addition, we might have a stake in reconciliation with the wrong doer, and calling her to account in this way can function as a step toward realizing this objective. Taking responsibility is distinguished from being morally responsible in that, if one takes responsibility for a particular outcome it does not follow that one is morally responsible for that outcome.
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One can take responsibility for many things, from the mundane to the vitally important. For example, one can take responsibility for teaching a course, organizing a conference, or throwing a birthday party. To take responsibility for, say, organizing a conference, is to agree to put forth the effort needed to achieve a certain set of goals or tasks—e. Traditionally, the concept of moral responsibility has been closely connected to the problem of free will. This is not to say that determinism has been refuted or falsified by modern physics, because it has not. At the ordinary level of choices and actions, and even ordinary electrochemical activity in our brains, causal laws govern what happens.
It’s all cause and effect in what you might call real life. Nonetheless, most contemporary skeptics tend to defend positions that are best seen as successors to traditional hard determinism. Hard incompatibilism amounts to a rejection of both compatibilism and libertarianism. Critics of hard incompatibilism include both compatibilists and libertarians. Most manipulation arguments introduce various science-fiction-like scenarios, or manipulation cases, aimed to show that agents who meet all the various compatibilist conditions for moral responsibility can nevertheless be subject to responsibility-undermining manipulation. The argument sets out three examples of actions that involve manipulation, the first of which features the most radical sort of manipulation consistent with all the leading compatibilist conditions, each progressively more like the fourth, which is an ordinary case of action causally determined in a natural way. Plum is just like an ordinary human being, except that a team of neuroscientists programmed him at the beginning on his life so that his reasoning is often but not always egoistic, and at times strongly so, with the intended consequence that in his current circumstances he is causally determined to engage in the egoistic reasons-responsive process of deliberation and to have the set of first and second-order desires that result in his decision to kill White.
Is Plum morally responsible in the basic desert sense for killing White? They further argue that there is no relevant difference between this case and mere causal determinism. But the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. Nothing can be causa sui—nothing can be the cause of itself. In order to be truly or ultimately morally responsible for one’s actions one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain crucial mental respects. Therefore, no one can be truly or ultimately morally responsible.
When one acts for a reason, what one does is a function of how one is, mentally speaking. So if one is to be truly responsible for how one acts, one must be truly responsible for how one is, mentally speaking—at least in certain respects. But to be truly responsible for how one is, in any mental respect, one must have brought it about that one is the way one is, in that respect. And it’s not merely that one must have caused oneself to be the way one is, in that respect.
One must also have consciously and explicitly chosen to be the way one is, in that respect, and one must have succeeded in bringing it about that one is that way. But then to be truly responsible, on account of having chosen to be the way one is, in certain mental respects, one must be truly responsible for one’s having the principles of choice P1 in the light of which one chose how to be. But for this to be so one must have chosen P1, in a reasoned, conscious, intentional fashion. But for this to be so one must already have had some principles of choice P2, in the light of which one chose P1.
Here we are setting out on a regress that we cannot stop. True self-determination is impossible because it requires the actual completion of an infinite series of choices of principles of choice. This argument trades on some strong and commonsense intuitions. Others critics challenge the claim that in order to be responsible for one’s actions, one has to be the cause of oneself.
Defenders of the Basic Argument have attempted to counter these objections in a number of ways. This argument is intended not only as an objection to event-causal libertarianism, as the luck objection is, but extends to compatibilism as well. Universal Luck Premise: Every morally significant act is either constitutively lucky, presently lucky, or both. Responsibility Negation Premise: Constitutive and present luck each negate moral responsibility.
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Conclusion: An agent is not morally responsible for any morally significant acts. Note that the first two conditions are the same for an agent’s being chancy and non-chancy lucky—i. To help understand how the third condition differs in the two definitions—i. A paradigmatic example of a chancy lucky event is Louis’s winning the lottery. To these three conditions, we can now also add the distinction between present luck and constitutive luck.
We can say that an agent’s decision is the result of present luck if a circumstantial factor outside of the agent’s control at or near the time of action significantly influences the decision. Such circumstantial factors could include the agent’s mood, what reasons happen to come to her, situational features of the environment, and the like. Our attention may wander at just the wrong moment or just the right one, or our deliberation may be primed by chance features of our environment. With these definitions in place we can now return to the Luck Pincer and see how libertarian and compatibilist accounts fare against it. Libertarian accounts famously face the problem of explaining how a decision or action can be free, given the libertarian demand for indeterminacy immediately prior to directly free action. We can divide compatibilist accounts into two main categories: historical and non-historical.
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The main problem with historical accounts is that they cannot satisfactorily explain how agents can take responsibility for their constitutive luck. If this argument is correct, present luck is not only a problem for libertarianism it is also a problem for historical compatibilism. And while present luck may be a bigger problem for libertarians, since they require the occurrence of undetermined events in the causal chain leading to free action, the problem it creates for historical compatibilists is nonetheless significant. Non-historical accounts, on the other hand, run into serious difficulties of their own with the epistemic condition on control over action. Lets say I drop my daughter Maya off at a friend’s house for a play date.
She has a peanut allergy and I forget to inform the other parent, Dolores, at the time of drop-off. Since non-culpable ignorance is responsibility-undermining and much more common than philosophers typically think, it gives additional force to the Luck Pincer. The neuroscientific threat to moral responsibility originates with the pioneering work of Benjamin Libet and his colleagues. In their groundbreaking study on the neuroscience of movement, Libet et al. There are, however, powerful objections to this interpretation of the neuroscientific findings. In particular, it is difficult to determine what the readiness potential corresponds to—is it, for instance, an intention formation or decision, or is it merely an urge of some sort? There are, however, other scientific threats to moral responsibility besides those posed by neuroscience.
While these findings may not be enough on their own to establish global skepticism about moral responsibility, they represent a potential threat to our everyday folk understanding of ourselves as conscious, rational, responsible agents, since they indicate that the conscious mind exercises less control over our behavior than we have traditionally assumed. In recent years a small industry has grown up around precisely this question. In recent years, empirical attempts have been made to test the practical implications of moral responsibility skepticism. A recent study by Shariff et al.
They also found that learning about the neural bases of human behavior, either through reading popular science articles or taking an undergraduate neuroscience course, similarly reduced people’s support for retributive punishment. Given the mixed results of these empirical studies and the fact that they tell us very little about any long-term consequences of adopting the skeptical perspective, the real-life practical implications of moral responsibility skepticism remain an open question. Perhaps, as these studies indicate, it would have both good and bad consequences. In which case, the practical question would shift to the overall balance—i. The debate over the philosophical and practical implications of moral responsibility skepticism nevertheless continues, and there is even some debate among skeptics themselves. Smilansky and other proponents of illusionism go on to argue that while our commonplace beliefs in free will and desert-entailing moral responsibility are illusions, if people were to accept this truth there would be wide-reaching negative intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences.
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In direct contrast to illusionism, is disillusionism: the view that to the extent that folk intuitions and beliefs about the nature of human cognition and moral responsibility are mistaken, philosophers and psychologists ought to do their part to educate the public—especially when their mistaken beliefs arguably fuel a number of unhealthy emotions and attitudes such as revenge, hatred, intolerance, lack of empathy, etc. These optimistic skeptics maintain that life without basic desert moral responsibility is not only possible, but also preferable. Moral responsibility skeptics generally respond to this Strawsonian concern in two ways. Guilt also appears to be one of the reactive attitudes imperiled by moral responsibility skepticism since it involves the supposition that one is blameworthy in the basic desert sense for an immoral action one has performed. Strawsonians fear that absent guilt we would not be motivated to moral improvement after acting badly, and we would be kept from reconciliation in impaired relationships. Another reactive attitude that some think would be threatened by moral responsibility skepticism is gratitude.
Of course, some of the recommended transformations in emotional attitudes may not be possible for us. In certain situations refraining from resentment or moral anger may be beyond our power, and thus even the committed skeptic might not be able to make the change the skeptical view suggests. I have listened to philosophers who deny the existence of moral responsibility. I know a philosopher who has written a paper in which he denies the reality of moral responsibility. That was a shoddy thing to do! The view that moral responsibility is required for morality is not limited, however, to libertarians. We would have to stop thinking in terms that would allow the possibility that some lives and projects are better than others.
Similar remarks can be found throughout the literature—see, e. Nonetheless, critics might question that if determinism precluded basic desert blameworthiness, would it not also undercut judgments of moral obligation? There are, however, a number of possible ways to respond to this criticism. In fact, recent work in experimental philosophy suggests that the principle may not be as intuitive as philosophers think.
From the skeptical perspective, then, morality is not about backward-looking assessments of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness, since these are rejected. This concern is fueled by two factors. The first is that one of the most prominent justifications for punishing criminals, retributivism, is incompatible with moral responsibility skepticism. Within the American criminal justice system, the most prominent justification for criminal punishment is retributivism. This retributivist justification for punishment maintains that punishment of a wrongdoer is justified for the reason that she deserves something bad to happen to her just because she has knowingly done wrong—this could include pain, deprivation, or death. While there may be independent reasons for rejecting retributivism, reasons that have nothing to do with free will and moral responsibility, it is clear that moral responsibility skepticism is incompatible with the retributive justification for punishment since it does away with the idea of basic desert. Deterrence theories are typically classified as a subspecies of consequentialist theories of punishment.
The most common objection to consequentialist deterrence theories is that they would allow for manifestly unjust punishments. Another approach consistent with skepticism about moral responsibility is moral education theories. These theories typically maintain that punishment can be justified only if it benefits the person being punished. An analogy is sometimes drawn with the justification for punishing children—i. Critics, however, object on number of different grounds. This account differs from the previous ones in two important ways.
Pereboom and Caruso resist this strategy. The incapacitation of dangerous criminals is instead justified on the ground of the right to harm in self defense and defense of others—a right that arguably has broader appeal than consequentialism. First, as less dangerous diseases justify only preventative measures less restrictive than quarantine, so less dangerous criminal tendencies justify only more moderate restraints. In fact, for certain minor crimes perhaps only some degree of monitoring could be defended. The Double-Edged Sword: Does Biomechanism Increase or Decrease Judges’ Sentencing of Psychopaths?
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