Given the concept of moral responsibility that is culturally fundamental in the West, this argument may be used to Galen Strawson (Contributor Webpage). Galen Strawson (, chap. 2; , , , ) has published several versions of an argument to the effect that moral responsibility is impossible. Response to Strawson on the Impossibility of Moral Responsibility the author, Galen Strawson argues for the impossibility of what he terms.

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While there may be independent reasons for rejecting retributivism, reasons that have nothing to do with free will and moral responsibility, it is clear that moral reesponsibility skepticism is incompatible with the retributive justification for punishment since it does away with the idea of basic desert.

This concern is fueled by two factors.

Strawson explores three possibilities for restoring the notion of free will to moral discourse responsibilitu rejects them all. There are, however, other scientific threats to moral responsibility besides those posed by neuroscience.

The Impossibility of Ultimate Moral Responsibility

For example, one can take responsibility for teaching a course, organizing a conference, or throwing a birthday party. Another reactive attitude that some think would be threatened by moral responsibility skepticism is gratitude.

The question is then why we engage in the particular S-procedures that we do engage in, and why we engage in them in the particular way that we do. The general objection applies equally whether determinism is true or false, and can be restated as follows. But how can indeterminism do what is expected of it, given that reasons are compounded of beliefs and desires?

Reflection, Ignorance, and AgencyNew York: Proponents of soft-line replies might therefore be tempted to point to this as the relevant difference. In addition, we might have a stake in reconciliation with the wrong doer, and calling her to account in this way can function as a step toward realizing this objective. When it comes to questions of responsibility, we tend to feel that we are somehow responsible for the way we are.

But intentions are not only not physical in the relevant sense even if they result from the very physical activity of the brain’s constituent partsthey are, in fact, not anything discernible at all. They maintain that as long as the various compatibilist conditions for moral responsibility are satisfied, manipulated agents are just as free and morally responsible as determined agents—despite what might be our initial intuition.


Secondly, the incapacitation account that results from this analogy demands a degree of concern for the rehabilitation and well-being of the criminal that would alter much of current practice. The answerability sense of responsibility defended by Thomas Scanlon and Hilary Bok is also claimed by some skeptics to be consistent with the rejection of basic desert see Perebooma; cf.

It is arguable, then, that axiological judgments of moral goodness and badness would not be affected by moral responsibility skepticism Haji ; Pereboomaand this may be sufficient for moral practice. Critical to it being an action, and so being evaluated as an action, and not just some observable phenomenon, is that which underlies it, which, in fact, generates it.

It’s simply inconceivable that we could dispense with the idea of a self when thinking about creatures like ourselves. Manipulated agents are the victims of very bad luck: Its Nature and NormsNew York: At the same time it is often extremely useful, given that one is often discussing agents ourselves who are assumed to be moral agents.

These reactions would be justified on purely backward-looking grounds and would not appeal to consequentialist or forward-looking considerations, such as future protection, future reconciliation, or future moral formation. Moral Responsibility, Freedom, and Compulsion. Suppose you set off for a shop.

Impossibility of Ultimate Moral Responsibility – Oxford Scholarship

At the heart of the argument is the following dilemma: Nietzsche thought that thoroughgoing acknowledgement of the point was long overdue, and his belief that there might be moral advantages in such an acknowledgement may deserve further consideration.

Few today would dispute that brains are physical and so is what they do causing the subjective dimension in entities like ourselves which we recognize as our mental lives. For 3 both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one’s success in one’s attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience.

Free Will and Responsibility in Philosophy of Action. If so then moral notions may still deserve a place in our discourse although those of us who see through them, to discern the fictions they are, will then have to make the choice of whether or not to play along. Strawson, CampbellClarke aN.

Compatibilism merely preserves the appearance of moral choice on this view.


I think that the point that it has to make is obvious, and that it has been underrated in recent discussion of free will — perhaps because it admits of no answer. Nonetheless, most contemporary skeptics tend to defend positions that are best seen as successors to traditional hard determinism. This fact glen not changed by the fact that we may be unable not to think of ourselves as truly morally responsible in ordinary circumstances.

To whatever extent, then, such dualistic thinking is present in our folk psychological attitudes about free will and moral responsibility cf. A major point of disagreement, however, is over whether consciousness is necessary for moral responsibility, and, if so, what role or function it must serve cf.

On the one hand it convinces almost all the students with whom I have discussed the topic of free will and moral responsibility’ On the other hand it often impossibilitty to be dismissed, in contemporary discussion of free will and moral responsibility, as wrong, or irrelevant, or fatuous, or too rapid, or an expression of metaphysical megalomania.

Haji, Ishtiyaque and Stefaan E. Free Will Skepticism in Philosophy of Action.

If one wants to think about free will and moral responsibility, consideration of some version of the Basic Argument is an overwhelmingly natural place to start. And we can say that an event is significant for an agent if she cares about the event and it can have either good or bad significance for her N. Such findings seem to suggest ijpossibility diminished belief in free will and moral responsibility would indeed have negative consequences. But what part of an action is morally relevant?

All that’s needed for moral valuing to be seen to be workable is the capacity which we manifestly have to “see” the actions of ourselves and others as intentional within an intentional domain so that we may sort and rank them in terms of their responsibilit direction as they run down to their particular sea.

Because it may be that the experience of redponsibility is really all there is, so far as free will is concerned.