SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Blame, but not merely as a means
(Ethics, )

A In this paper, I will argue that what are typically called unexpressed and third-person blame cannot be considered as genuine instances of blame because of their inability to satisfy the general aims of blame - this is, to a certain extent, because they treat the wrongdoer merely as a means. As I show in section 1, the literature identifies two aims for blame: a) protest and b) norm-reinforcement. For a practice to be considered blame, it must - at least in principle - be able to satisfy those aims. In section 2, we will see, however, what we call private blame is unable to satisfy either aim and therefore should not be considered a real instance of blame. On the other hand, we may concede that third-person blame can satisfy the protest part - but it still fails to meet norm reinforcement. When engaging in so-called third-person blaming, we cannot enforce any norm on the wrongdoer. This section will also consider and refute some accounts (McKenna 2012; Smith 2013; Fricker 2016) that try to show how unexpressed and third-person blame might satisfy the aforementioned aims. Fricker (2016), for example, claims that in third-person blaming, we enforce norms on ourselves or other human beings - wrongdoer excluded. This line of argument is of no help here, however, because - I shall argue - to blame a person in this way would be to use her merely as a means to increase our moral alignment with others. Here I use Pauline Kleingeld (2020) Interpretation of Kant's Formula of Humanity according to which: An agent uses another person merely as a means if and only if (1) the agent uses another person as a means in the service of realizing her ends (2) without, as a matter of moral principle, making this use conditional on the other's consent; where (3) by "consent" is meant the other's genuine actual consent to being used, in a particular manner, as a means to the agent's end. Assuming that using others merely as a means is wrong, what we call third-person blame cannot satisfy the second aim and therefore should not be considered a real instance of blame. In section 3, I will consider a possible objection. It might be said that there is a conflation, in my account, between justifying the claim that there are no such things as third-person and unexpressed blame, on the one hand, and morally justifying such (alleged) kinds of blame on the other. I will argue, however, that these two cannot be separated. Blame and punishment are ethical responses to wrongdoing and not just a way of deterring undesirable action - by considering this moral element, we can differentiate them from other deterrence practices such as torture.

Chair: Markus Fuchsberger
Time: 11:20-11:50, 10 September 2021 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Shervin Mirzaeighazi  
(The University of Manchester, )



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