Philosophical Studies

, Volume 99, Issue 2, pp 229-268

First online:

Is Responsible Essentially Impossible

  • S.L. Hurley

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Part 1 reviews the general question of when elimination of an entity orproperty is warranted, as opposed to revision of our view of it. Theconnections of this issue with the distinction between context-drivenand theory-driven accounts of reference and essence are probed.Context-driven accounts tend to be less hospitable to eliminativism thantheory-driven accounts, but this tendency should not be overstated.However, since both types of account give essences explanatory depth,eliminativist claims associated with supposed impossible essences areproblematic on both types of account.

Part 2 applies these considerations to responsibility in particular. Theimpossibility of regressive choice or control is explained. It is arguedthat this impossibility does not support the claim that no one is everresponsible on either context-driven or theory-driven accounts of`responsibility'.