Very pleased to be able to introduce our next Featured Philosopher, my Upstate friend, Julia Markovits. Take it away Julia:
Thanks so much for inviting me to contribute!
I’m currently working on a book about praise- and blameworthiness. One thing I’ll have something to say about in the book is how to understand degrees of praise- and blameworthiness. In the book, I defend a kind of quality-of-will account, according to which one dimension of moral worth tracks the extent to which we are (or fail to be) motivated to act by the reasons that would make something the right thing to do. (I’ve defended this claim before, in my paper “Acting for the Right Reasons” (Philosophical Review, 2010).) That thesis gives us the tools to account for one kind of variation in degree of moral worth, since our motivating reasons can overlap more or less with the normative reasons that apply to us.
But this notion of degrees of overlap can’t explain some variations in degree of moral worth than seem to have a lot of intuitive support. For example (as I argued in another paper, “Saints, Heroes, Sages, and Villains, Philosophical Studies, 2012), it can’t explain what makes so-called “heroic” actions especially praiseworthy, since both heroic and ordinary actions may exhibit perfect overlap between the reasons motivating their performance and the normative reasons justifying them.