In Defense of Moral Responsibility Skepticism
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Moral responsibility skeptics have often focused on problems involving determinism in order to defend their position. I argue that this defense of moral responsibility skepticism is misplaced given that what really matters for moral responsibility is an agent's ability to have morally-relevant control. An account, I call agnostic control, remains viable regardless of the truth of determinism, which means that determinism is the wrong place to look for the denial of moral responsibility. I provide an argument in favour of moral responsibility skepticism, such that differences in ability between agents, which are the result of constitutive luck, are moral responsibility undermining. This is explained by the contrastive fact that agents have differing abilities, which makes praising one agent, and blaming another, inherently unfair. I then defend this skeptical position against three prominent criticisms, that the system of moral responsibility is 'fair enough', that without moral responsibility our participant reactive attitudes would not be justified, and that moral responsibility is required to justify criminal punishment. Contrary to the claim that moral responsibility is 'fair enough' I argue that the system of rewards and punishments, which are justified by moral responsibility, require that moral responsibility have a higher standard of fairness. This is due to the increased significance these rewards and punishments have for the agent. The concern surrounding the reactive attitudes and criminal punishment involves the idea that both are practically necessary for a well-functioning society. The worry is that without moral responsibility the reactive attitudes and criminal punishment would have to be rejected, an outcome which is purportedly undesirable. I address this problem in two ways; either by showing that the purported benefits are not actually beneficial or by showing that the beneficial aspects of each can and should be maintained given moral responsibility skepticism. This means that moral responsibility skepticism remains a viable option.
Cite this work
Jody Tomchishen (2015). In Defense of Moral Responsibility Skepticism. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/9793