Rational Action and Moral Ownership
In exploring the impact of cognitive science findings on compatibilist theories of moral responsibility such as Fischer and Ravizza’s, most attention has focused on whether agents are, in fact, responsive to reasons. In doing so, however, we have largely ignored our improved understanding of agents’ epistemic access to their reasons for acting. The “ownership” component of Fischer and Ravizza’s theory depends on agents being able to see the causal efficacy of their conscious deliberation. Cognitive science studies make clear that a variety of situational factors, implicit attitudes, and unconscious mental states influence agents’ behavior, and that they are generally unaware of their impact. If an agent is skeptical of the extent to which her conscious deliberation has causal upshots in the world, then she – like a natural incompatibilist – may not take ownership over her action-generating mechanism. Instead, she may seek a more general account of moral responsibility or revise her moral intuitions altogether.