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The Explanatory Component of Moral Responsibility
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.
2008 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Conflicting judgments and intuitions are commonplace in philosophical debates about moral responsibility. Some participants think that if an agent does not fully control a decision, then she has no or little responsibility for that decision; others think that some degrees of luck are entirely compatible with full responsibility. Some think that in order for an agent to be responsible for an action, she must have been capable of doing something else instead; others think that what is important is merely that the action was brought about by the agent in the right way. Some feel quite strongly that responsibility for an action is undermined by determinism; others think that what is relevant is how that action relates to the agent at the time of choice, not how the agent came to be such that she chose the way she did. Many of the arguments supplied in these controversies urge us to focus on one aspect or view of the cases discussed at the expense of others. These arguments seem effective in that various differences in focus do tend to affect intuitions of responsibility, for professional philosophers and laymen alike. The fact that changes of focus affect intuitions of responsibility raises questions: On what factors should we focus our attention? What focus makes for reliable intuitions? It is not clear that such questions can be answered by providing further cases or thought experiments to consider, as reactions to such cases are likely to be subject to the same sort of focus relativity. This paper approaches the problem from a new angle. It would be easier to determine what to think about moral responsibility if we were clearer about why we react the way we do to these arguments, and why our reactions vary. To this end, we will do three things. First, we will present a general model of our judgments of moral responsibility, a model according to which such judgments are, essentially, explanatory judgments. Second, we will explain how this model can account for not only factors that affect the degrees to which we assign moral responsibility in ordinary life, but also the sometimes contradictory judgments that people make about one of the most important thought experiments in the philosophical debate about moral responsibility. Finally, we will argue that this has important methodological consequences for that debate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Moral responsibility, freedom of will, determinism, explanation, moral psychology
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-54962OAI: diva2:312498
The Fifth Interuniversity Workshop on Art, Mind and Morals, Palma de Mallorca
Available from: 2010-04-25 Created: 2010-04-25 Last updated: 2010-04-26

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