When and why is it disrespectful to excuse an attitude?
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It is intuitive that, under certain circumstances, it can be disrespectful or patronizing to excuse someone for an attitude (even for an attitude one finds objectionable). While it is easy enough to find instances where it seems disrespectful to excuse an attitude, matters are complicated. When and why, precisely, is it disrespectful to judge that someone is not responsible for his attitude? In this paper, I show, first, that the extant philosophical literature on this question is underdeveloped and overgeneralized: the writers who address the question suggest quite strikingly that it is always disrespectful to excuse a sane, rational agent for his attitude, and their arguments rely on false generalizations about what is involved in excusing an attitude. I then sketch an account of respect (something conspicuously missing in the literature on this question) to explain when and why it is disrespectful to excuse an attitude. Using this account, I show that one can coherently (and respectfully) excuse an attitude even in some cases where that attitude was produced by a responsiveness to reasons.
KeywordsMoral responsibility Respect Responsibility for attitudes Moral ignorance Judgment sensitivity
I would like to thank Sophie Horowitz, Hilary Kornblith, and Katia Vavova for helpful discussions of the material in this paper and for extensive comments on earlier drafts.
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