SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Restricting the Reactive Attitude: A Critique of Korsgaard's Moral Responsibility
(Ethics, )

A Christine Korsgaard holds an absolute position on moral responsibility, shaped by Kant's two viewpoints on persons. I examine Korsgaard's thesis and explicate what she has become logically committed to; she commits to holding others morally responsible without exception. She says as much explicitly, but then shies away from this conclusion in other sections of her work, for reasons I believe are correct, but incompatible with her more formal argument. After this analysis, I critique her thesis on its own grounds by offering two direct criticisms. I then introduce P.F. Strawson's essay "Freedom and Resentment" to inject a different perspective on moral responsibility. I explain Strawson's project of reconciling his optimist and pessimist, and analyze his claims on the morality of reactive and objective attitudes. Strawson's language of reactive attitudes is useful in understanding Korsgaard's commitment, but I argue that he holds an ineffectual descriptive view where a powerful, normative one is needed. I end the critique of Korsgaard's absolutist views on agency and develop three cases in which I believe it is morally permissible to suspend Korsgaard's obligatory responsibility. The first case is when I take the objective attitude towards myself in moments of active deliberation or reflection. Here I view myself in the past or future as a determined thing to be examined or taken into account. The second case of moral permissibility occurs when I suspend my reactive attitudes towards someone who will not or cannot engage interpersonally in a way that warrants reactive attitudes. This person has degraded my relations with her to the point of non-collaboration, and has thus brought the objective attitude on herself. The third case is one where causally deterministic circumstances demand the objective attitude, cases in which a key variable negates even Korsgaard's grounds for practical responsibility. This third case is also the only in which I argue the reactive attitude would be normatively impermissible. I find value in what Korsgaard and Strawson assert, but push for a change in Korsgaard's absolutism and a bolder stance than Strawson's. Holding people in our lives responsible is central to interpersonal relationships, but it is not rational for us to default to the reactive attitude.

Chair: Damiano Ranzenigo
Time: 18:50-19:20, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Jordan Myers  
(University of Pittsburgh, )



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