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.
Over the past few years, an interesting development in experimental philosophy has been work on the “ought implies can” principle (OIC) in commonsense morality. Several research teams have investigated whether patterns in commonsense moral judgment are consistent with a commitment to OIC, understood as a conceptual entailment from having a moral responsibility to being able to fulfill it. Across a variety of contexts and testing procedures, the principal finding has been very consistent: people are definitely willing to attribute moral responsibilities to agents unable to fulfill them. Based on these findings, I and others have concluded that there is no conceptual entailment from “ought” to “can.” But there is a lingering question. If there is no conceptual entailment, then what is the source of the intuitive link, which many theorists seem to sense, between “ought” and “can”? A new paper might provide at least part of the answer.
The program for the 4th biennial New Orleans Workshop on Agency and Responsibility (NOWAR 4) has been set. It is pasted below the fold. The workshop takes place in New Orleans on November 2-4, 2017, and this year it kicks off with an open discussion on the foundations of moral responsibility, with Michael McKenna, Dana Nelkin, Chandra Sripada, and David Shoemaker. The three keynote speakers this year are Jeanette Kennett, Michael S. Moore, and Angela Smith. Registration is free, and just requires an email to David Shoemaker (dshoemak AT tulane DOT edu). Information about lodging (with a reserved hotel block) to be found soon on the Murphy Institute website.
This post is a question for those who know more about the debates about moral responsibility. The question is: why is the wrong kind of reasons problem discussed so extensively in the buck-passing/value theory literature but relatively little in the moral responsibility literature? The only discussions I have been able to find are in a couple of Stephen Darwall’s papers where he discusses what we can learn from Strawson. Maybe the issue has been discussed more extensively in which case I would be very thankful for advice… (more…)
In an interesting piece in the NYT’s The Stone this morning, Karen Stohr (Georgetown) discussed the nature of contempt as it pertains to Trump and his recent protesters. She claims that contempt is different from anger, insofar as contempt is global, targeting the whole agent. “If I express anger toward you, I am engaging with you. If I express contempt toward you, I am dismissing you.”
She then draws from P.F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” to suggest that, while anger represents what we are susceptible to as part of interpersonal relationships and the participant stance, contempt moves us to the objective stance. From the participant stance, we see one another as accountable, and we “regard them as fellow moral agents.” From the objective stance, we view others as objects to be “managed or handled,” in Strawson’s words. One of Stohr’s points, then, is that contempt “functions by shifting the targeted person from a participant relationship to an objective relationship. It aims to alter someone’s status by diminishing their agency.” She then argues that contempt in the public sphere is perilous, especially for those not in power or marginalized in various ways. Only those in power can benefit, as only they are able make good on their dismissiveness by pushing the vulnerable even more to the margins. We need to maintain mutual respect, she thinks, and so push public contempt back into the closet.