Moral Responsibility
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By In Ideas, Moral Responsibility, Normative Ethics Comments (27)

Wrong Acts

I suspect I’ve just wandered into a longstanding dispute, but I’m curious what people think about the nature of wrong acts, and in particular about whether an agent incapable of perceiving the relevant wrongness/rightness reasons can nevertheless perform wrong acts.  Here’s a representative quote from someone who does think this, Gideon Rosen, in his 2004 paper “Skepticism About Moral Responsibility”:

When you pull my chair out from under me just for laughs, there is no doubt that the act is wrong. But if you’re only five years old, or if you mistakenly believed that I wouldn’t mind, then even though the act is wrong, it may be a mistake for me to blame you for it.

I agree with the blame claim, of course, but I don’t know what to make of the claim that the act is wrong.  Would we say of a bear who did the same thing that the act was wrong? Interested to hear considerations for and against this claim.

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