I’ll try to keep this brief, and so will likely run roughshod over important points. I’m curious about what’s doing the work on our intuitions in so-called manipulation cases when people deploy them to theorize about responsibility. These are cases in which someone is one way, values-wise, and then her brain is manipulated by a team of neuroscientists/god to produce within her a new set of values (or subset of values), so that she now performs some action for which she is not responsible — or at least that’s what our intuitions are supposed to be.
But there are two features of such cases that aren’t prized apart, typically: (a) the fact of external alteration of values; and (b) the fact that the values have changed pretty radically. But which one is doing the work on our intuitions? We can imagine each without the other. Suppose that Jay is a pretty bad hombre, committing at least one hurtful action per day. Now suppose the neuroscientists destroy the values generally producing such actions and replace them with exactly similar values. Jay then commits a hurtful action. Is he responsible? Seems to me quite clear that he is (although perhaps your intuitions differ; if so, I’d like to hear from you). It’s thus not the external manipulation per se that’s doing the intuitive work.
Perhaps, then, it’s the value change? But value change in and of itself doesn’t typically cause us to change our intuitions about someone’s responsibility. Nomy Arpaly, Michael McKenna, and Jonathan Glover have all given real-life cases in which a person with one set of values transforms into someone with a different set of values (e.g., the confirmed kid-hater who comes to love his own child; the hard partier who becomes the industrious worker; the religious convert). And we don’t think these people aren’t responsible for what they thereby do.
I guess there’s a third possibility: the suddenness of the change. But why should that make a difference? In talking about related matters, Parfit once remarked that it’s the fact of the psychological change (and how large it was) that matters, not its rate.
Still, maybe the rate of change is derivatively important, as a sudden change in values may make it harder to attribute the new values to a person as her own? One might then stipulate that numerical identity can be preserved across manipulation (as Al Mele and Ish Haji explicitly do) even when the values with which one is identified have changed so dramatically as to alter one’s moral identity (or, more generally, one’s practical identity). I wonder about this, though. It seems there can be sudden, dramatic changes in some of one’s values in real life cases — in, e.g., a religious conversion — without a change in one’s responsibility status. (There is much more to say here, but I won’t.)
There’s an important related issue here as well: When and for what are the people in these cases being appraised? Suppose Clara-1 is a nasty person who does nasty actions but then is externally manipulated/brainwashed to have a different, kinder set of values for a 24-hour period (while preserving her numerical identity). Call this Clara-2. During this day she performs several kind actions. Then the next day she’s back to her old nasty self and performs more nasty actions (Clara-3). (This is modeled on a famous Mele case.) We might assess the actions performed on the kind day or the pre-kind day (or the post-kind day, but that’s less interesting). And we might, for each of those assessments of actions, appraise Clara-2 or Clara-3 (or Clara-1, but that’s less interesting). So we could appraise Clara-2 for the kind actions on the kind day OR we could appraise Clara-2 for the pre-kind-day’s nasty actions. Or we could assess Clara-3 for the kind actions on the kind day or for the pre-kind-day’s nasty actions.
My own intuitions are that Clara-2 is not responsible for the nasty actions of the pre-kind day but she IS responsible for the actions on the kind day. And it seems to me that Clara-3 is not responsible for the kind actions on the kind day but she IS responsible for the nasty actions on the pre-kind day. Then it’s not the manipulation as such that alters intuitions but rather that it seems a mistake to attribute actions to an agent whose values are in fundamental discord with the values that were manifested in those actions. And if they are in concordance, then one may attribute those actions to the agent. But then in real-life cases, this would imply that undergoing a religious conversion should get you off the hook after all for your Saul-like persecuting actions pre-conversion. And that seems wrong.
I know a lot has been written on this. References are welcome, but also just your thoughts on the matter. What’s the source of altered intuitions in manipulation cases, and can it be carried over coherently to real-life cases? (Apologies for the meanderings, but I’m trying to return us to the days of the occasional half-assed post.)4