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Judgments of moral responsibility - a unified account
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication, Arts and Humanities. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Institutionen för Filosofi, Lingvistik och Vetenskapsteori, Göteborgs universitet.
2009 (English)In: Conferences and Volumes: [2009] Society for Philosophy and Psychology, 35th Annual Meeting (Bloomington, IN; June 12-14) (5), 2009Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Recent work in experimental philosophy shows that folk intuitions about moral responsibility are sensitive to a surprising variety of factors. Studies by Nichols and Knobe (2007) suggest that whether people take agents to be responsible for their actions in a deterministic scenario depends on whether these actions are described abstractly or concretely, and on how serious moral transgression these actions seem to represent. Studies by Nahmias et. al. (2007) show that the kind of determinism involved affects assignments of responsibility. When deterministic scenarios are described using reductionist explanations of action, subjects were significantly less prone to ascribe responsibility than when the deterministic laws are described as involving ordinary psychological concepts. Finally, a study by Knobe (2003) suggests that people are significantly more inclined to hold an agent responsible for bringing about bad side effects than for bringing about good side effects when the agent just doesn’t care about these side effects. Elsewhere, we have presented an analysis of our everyday concept of moral responsibility that provides a unified explanation of paradigmatic cases of moral responsibility, and accounts for the force of both typical excuses and the most influential skeptical arguments against moral responsibility or for incompatibilism. In this article, we suggest that it also explains the divergent and apparently incoherent set of intuitions revealed by these new studies. If our hypothesis is correct, the surprising variety of judgments stems from a unified concept of moral responsibility. Knobe, J. (2003) Intentional Action and Side Effects in Ordinary Language. Analysis 63, pp.190–93. Nahmias, E.; Coates, J.; Kvaran. T. (2007) Free will, moral responsibility, and mechanism: experiments on folk intuitions. Midwest studies in Philosophy XXXI Nichols, S.; Knobe, J. (2007) Moral responsibility and determinism: the cognitive science of folk intuitions, Noûs 41:4, 663-685

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
moral responsibility, moral psychology, experimental philosophy
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-54956OAI: diva2:312494
The 35th annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN , 2009
Available from: 2010-04-25 Created: 2010-04-25 Last updated: 2010-04-26

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