Moral Psychology

By In Moral Psychology Comments (10)

Whims and Real Selves

In a recent article, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen presents an argument against “real self” views of autonomy and responsibility that, on its face, seems fairly troublesome ("Identification and Responsibility," in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (2003): 349-376).  Real self views are those that maintain that one is responsible for action A just in case A flowed ultimately from one’s real self, and this is taken to mean actions depending on psychic elements with which one identifies.  L-R then advances the “Whim Argument” against this view.  Consider actions done on a whim.  These are actions depending on motives with which one neither identifies nor disidentifies (what Frankfurt would call “wanton” actions, it seems – although see below).  The possibility of such actions yields a dilemma for the real self theorist: either responsibility requires identification or it simply requires the absence of disidentification.  If the former, then whim actions are ones for which the agent is never responsible, which seems quite implausible.  If the latter, then I can be responsible for an action not flowing from my real self.  So on this more plausible horn it is not a necessary condition for responsibility that an action flow from my real self.  How might a real self theorist reply?


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