SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Excuses and their Role in our Responsibility Practices
(Ethics, )

A I discuss the role of excuses in our responsibility practices and argue that there is a specific reactive stance fitting to excused action, namely conciliation. To do this I rely on a distinction between excuses and exemptions: an agent is exempted when moral demands are not applicable to her because she lacks relevant capacities. Exempted action is not an instantiation of moral agency and not within the scope of responsibility practices. Excused actions are performed by morally competent agents who violate moral demands but are nonetheless not blameworthy due to excusing conditions. My first aim is to vindicate the plausibility of excuses. I use examples of emotional strain, provocation, and extremely burdening moral demands. While I remain neutral on the plausibility of full excuses, I show that partial excuses are widely acknowledged and figure centrally in our responsibility practices by mitigating which agents we view as worthy of blame without mitigating wrongness of action. My discussion builds on Kelly's (2013) account, but I depart from it regarding the normative implications of excuses: whereas Kelly can be read as arguing that excuses override blameworthiness and make blaming the agent all things considered inappropriate, I argue that excuses make blame unfitting. This leads to my second aim. I argue that excuses have a specific place in our responsibility practices: there is a sui generis reactive stance fitting towards excused wrongdoing and different from blame, which I call conciliation. It is an attitude that seeks to mend the relationship where it has been impaired by wrongdoing. This contrasts with blame, which has been characterised as a form of moral anger (Wallace 1994) and a form of protest (Hieronymi 2001, Smith 2013). Blame is confrontational and puts the blamer in opposition to the blamee. Conciliation is not oppositional but an attitude that seeks to engage both parties in an attempt to come to terms with the wrongdoing by mutual understanding and resetting the terms of the relationship. Whereas, in a Scanlonian framework of moral relationships, blame consists in adapting one's relationship with the wrongdoer in light of the wrongdoing, conciliation aims at maintaining the relationship without trivialising the wrong done. As such, conciliation is fitting towards behaviour that is wrong but excused.

Chair: Markus Fuchsberger
Time: 12:00-12:30, 10 September 2021 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Alexander Edlich  
(LMU Munich, )



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