Expanding Moral Understanding
Australasian Philosophical Review, forthcoming (link coming soon)
In “Forgiveness: An Ordered Pluralism,” Miranda Fricker argues that the function of forgiveness is to liberate the forgiver from redundant blame-feeling. Blame is rendered redundant when it can no longer serve its purpose, so to understand the function of forgiveness, we must first understand the function of blame. For Fricker, the paradigmatic form of blame is Communicative Blame, and its function is to “inspire remorse in the wrongdoer as a matter of aligning both parties’ moral understanding” (p. 8). When this alignment of moral understanding through remorse is achieved, or when blame-feelings cannot accomplish this task, the victim’s blame-feelings are rendered redundant, and the victim can free herself from them through forgiveness. In this essay, I argue that Fricker’s view of blame, which provides the foundation for her view of forgiveness, requires revision.
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, 2019
Much has been written about the fittingness, epistemic, and standing norms that govern blame. In this paper, we argue that there exists a norm of blame that has yet to receive adequate philosophical discussion and without which an account of the ethics of blame will be incomplete: a norm proscribing comparatively arbitrary blame. By reflecting on the objectionableness of comparatively arbitrary blame, we stand to elucidate a substantive, and thus far overlooked, norm governing our attributions of responsibility. Accordingly, our aim in this paper is to develop a comparative nonarbitrariness condition on blame that can enrich our understanding of the ethics of blame.
Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2019
Traditionally, theories of moral responsibility feature only the minimally sufficient conditions for moral responsibility. While these theories are well-suited to account for the threshold of responsibility, it’s less clear how they can address questions about the degree to which agents are responsible. One feature that intuitively affects the degree to which agents are morally responsible is how difficult performing a given action is for them. Recently, philosophers have begun to develop accounts of scalar moral responsibility that make use of this notion of difficulty [Coates and Swenson 2013; Nelkin 2016]. In this paper, I argue that these accounts, although innovative, are incomplete. The degree to which agents are morally responsible is determined not only by the difficulty agents face but also by the quality of reasons for which they act.
Philosophical Studies, 2018
In a recent essay, Deery and Nahmias (Philos Stud 174(5):1255–1276, 2017) utilize interventionism about causation to develop an account of causal sourcehood in order to defend compatibilism about free will and moral responsibility from manipulation arguments. In this paper, we criticize Deery and Nahmias’s analysis of sourcehood by drawing a distinction between two forms of causal invariance that can come into conflict on their account. We conclude that any attempt to resolve this conflict will either result in counterintuitive attributions of moral responsibility or will undermine their response to manipulation arguments.
Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, forthcoming
Pluralism about personal identity has been understudied and underdeveloped in the literature. It merits greater attention, especially in light of recent work by philosophers and psychologists, which illuminates the great number of our evaluative practices that presuppose personal identity. It's unlikely that traditional monistic approaches to personal identity can ground or explain all of these practices and concerns. If we take our philosophical theories to be telling us anything about the commonsense conception of personal identity, then we ought to take this empirical work seriously. In this essay, I propose my own pluralist account of personal identity—the Subscript View. On this view, there typically exist (at least) two individuals whenever we once thought there was only one, a psychological individual and a biological individual. I argue that the Subscript View can better account for our many identity-related practical concerns than traditional monistic approaches to persistence.
Blackwell Companion to Free Will, forthcoming
In this chapter, I will look at three recent attempts to draw lessons about free will from the causation literature: Oisín Deery and Eddy Nahmias’ (2017) account of interventionist causation and manipulation arguments, Carolina Sartorio’s (2016) actual causal sequence account of free will, and Sara Bernstein’s (forthcoming) analysis of the relationship between causal proportionality and moral responsibility. What follows is far from an exhaustive analysis of the current work on causation and free will and in focusing on these particular views I’ve ignored many others. What I find compelling about these particular views is that though they represent three very different ways of incorporating work on causation into discussions of free will, they all face real challenges about how best to conceive of the relationship between the metaphysical and ethical questions regarding the nature of free will. And by reflecting on the different ways those working on free will can utilize the research on causation, and on the questions about the interplay between metaphysics and ethics that these approaches raise, we can reveal new and interesting avenues for future research not only on the relationship between causation and free will but on the metaphysics of free will more generally.
Grazer Philosophische Studien, 2017
The authors argue in favor of the “nonconciliation” (or “steadfast”) position concerning the problem of peer disagreement. Throughout the paper they place heavy emphasis on matters of phenomenology—on how things seem epistemically with respect to the net import of one’s available evidence vis-a-vis the disputed claim p, and on how such phenomenology is affected by the awareness that an interlocutor whom one initially regards as an epistemic peer disagrees with oneself about p. Central to the argument is a nested goal/sub-goal hierarchy that the authors claim is inherent to the structure of epistemically responsible belief-formation: pursuing true beliefs by pursuing beliefs that are objectively likely given one’s total available evidence; pursuing this sub-goal by pursuing beliefs that are likely true (given that evidence) relative to one’s own deep epistemic sensibility; and pursuing this sub-sub-goal by forming beliefs in accordance with one’s own all-in, ultima facie, epistemic seemings.
Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2016
John Martin Fischer's most recent collection of essays, Deep Control: Essays on Free Will and Value, is both incredibly wide-ranging and impressively detailed. Fischer manages to cover a staggering amount of ground in the free will debate, while also providing insightful and articulate analyses of many of the positions defended in the field. In this collection, Fischer focuses on the relationship between free will and moral responsibility. In the first section of his book, Fischer defends Frankfurt cases as an important and useful tool in rejecting the necessity of regulative control for moral responsibility. In the second section, Fischer turns his attention to his own account of guidance control. In this essay, I first focus on Fischer's defense of Frankfurt cases, specifically his response to the argument that the assumption of determinism in such cases is question-begging. I then analyze two objections to Fischer's account of guidance control. Finally, I conclude with a brief discussion of the metaphor of the pilgrimage, which Fischer introduces in the opening essay of his collection.
Journal of Value Inquiry, 2014
Patrick Todd's article, "A New Approach to Manipulation Arguments," has spurred considerable discussion in the literature. In his essay, Todd attempts to reframe how manipulation arguments function dialectically by arguing that the incompatibilist need only claim that manipulation mitigates responsibility. In a recent paper, Andrew Khoury attempts to defuse Todd's modified manipulation argument by presenting a competing compatibilist version of the argument. In this paper, I argue that, though creative, Khoury cannot defuse the modified manipulation argument. Rather, the best way to respond to Todd's argument is to tackle it head on by generating doubt about the veracity of its premises.
Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind, 2014.
In trying to chart the contours of our folk conceptions, philosophy often proceeds with an assumption of monism. One attempts to provide a single account of the notion of free will, reference, or the self. The assumption of monism provides an important constraint for theory building. And it is a sensible starting assumption. However, it's possible that for some philosophically interesting notions, people operate with multiple different notions. We will argue that in the case of personal identity, monism does not capture folk commitments concerning personal identity. Many of our identity-related practical concerns seem to be grounded in distinct views of what is involved in personal identity. Furthermore, both empirical evidence and philosophical thought experiments indicate that judgments about personal identity are regimented by two (or more) different criteria. In the second half of the paper, we will consider reasons for thinking that the folk commitment to pluralism should be rejected or overhauled. We will offer a tentative case in favor of a pluralist philosophical view about personal identity.
Philosophical Studies, 2013
In the recent article "A new approach to manipulation arguments," Patrick Todd seeks to reframe a common incompatibilist form of argument often leveraged against compatibilist theories of moral responsibility. Known as manipulation arguments, these objections rely on cases in which agents, though they have met standard compatibilist conditions for responsibility, have been manipulated in such a way that they fail to be blameworthy for their behavior. Traditionally, in order to get a manipulation argument off the ground, an incompatibilist must illustrate that a manipulated agent is not at all responsible for her behavior. Todd argues that this is an unnecessarily heavy burden; the incompatibilist need only show that the presence of manipulation mitigates ascriptions of responsibility. Though innovative, Todd fails to present his modified manipulation argument in a way that poses a true threat to the compatibilist. In fact, by introducing a scalar conception of moral responsibility, Todd gives the compatibilist the tools necessary to better handle the incompatibilist's original manipulation argument.
Philosophical Studies, 2012
In this paper, we review Keith Lehrer's account of the basing relation, with particular attention to the two cases he offered in support of his theory, Raco (Lehrer, Theory of knowledge, 1990; Theory of knowledge, (2nd ed.), 2000) and the earlier case of the superstitious lawyer (Lehrer, The Journal of Philosophy, 68, 1971). We show that Lehrer's examples succeed in making his case that beliefs need not be based on the evidence, in order to be justified. These cases show that it is the justification (rather than the belief) that must be based in the evidence. We compare Lehrer's account of basing with some alternative accounts that have been offered, and show why Lehrer's own account is more plausible.