SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Hope and Blame in Hard Cases
(Ethics, )

A Some people do not have a reason to phi, even if it would be good if they phi-ed, because they are not motivated such that there is a sound rational route from their motivational profile to phi-ing. An uncaring husband, precisely because he is uncaring, might, therefore, not have a reason to treat his wife better. On a commonsense understanding of blame, an agent is blameworthy only if the agent ought to have acted otherwise then s/he did. On this understanding, the uncaring husband may not be to blame; if, that is, it is in fact not the case that he ought to have treated his wife better, because there is no reason for him to do so. This might seem to be a problem for reasons internalism. I think it isn't, as Williams when introducing internalism and this case didn't; to the contrary, it is meant to motivate internalism. Showing this, I consider what might be a particularly tragic scenario: the wife's stance to her husband's inconsiderateness. May she not blame him, take a participatory stance towards him, just because he is motivationally abnormal is such a distasteful way? I argue that hope awards a place for blame to be appropriate for some (the wife) while not on the part of others (third parties). At the point at which it does not make sense for us to sustain hope that the husband does actually care, it might still make sense for the wife to do so. Hope thus grounds blame by grounding the conditions for appropriate blame. This is possible because whether an agent has a reason is importantly indeterminate, making variously "optimistic internal reasons statements" available. This allows us to explain the appropriateness of some victim's blame, without revising our standard understanding of blame. This has not been duly recognized in the standard literature on blame. This is because the standard analysis is in terms of fittingness, understood as accurate representation. I argue that the relational insight about the uncaring husband presents an important methodological issue, and then gesture how the current insight may be accommodated at the meta-level, on a perspectivist understanding of blame. Importantly, admitting that the uncaring husband may not be blameworthy is not a concession of internalism (pace Kate Manne), but it motivates it: internalism reveals an important limitation to blame, otherwise overlooked or explained away.

Chair: Glenn Anderau
Time: 16:00-16:30, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Anton Emilsson 
(Lund University, )



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