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The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 163–181 | Cite as

Blame and Protest

  • Eugene ChislenkoEmail author
Article

Abstract

In recent years, philosophers have developed a novel conception of blame as a kind of moral protest. This Protest View of Blame faces doubts about its intelligibility: can we make sense of inner ‘protest’ in cases of unexpressed blame? It also faces doubts about its descriptive adequacy: does ‘protest’ capture what is distinctive in reactions of blame? I argue that the Protest View can successfully answer the first kind of doubt, but not the second. Cases of contemptful blame and unexpressed blame offer initial counterexamples to the view. The Protest View can accommodate these examples by appealing to a broader notion of protest, but, I argue, at the cost of retreating to a broader category that no longer captures what is distinctive about blame. Moreover, nonviolent resistance, in the tradition of Gandhi and Dr. King, characteristically protests without blame, presenting another powerful challenge to the Protest View. These challenges, I argue, undermine the view, while helping to illuminate and defend the appeal of nonviolent resistance. They also offer an alternative conception of the relation between protest and blame, characteristic of nonviolent resistance and obscured by the Protest View. On that alternative, the relation is not descriptive but practical; rather than understanding blame as a kind of protest, we should aim, in many cases, to replace blame with protest.

Keywords

Blame Protest Responsibility Nonviolence 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Lee-Ann Chae, Colin Chamberlain, Charles Goldhaber, August Gorman, Tyler Haddow, Samuel Reis-Dennis, audiences at the Central States Philosophical Association and Temple University, and my anonymous reviewers for very helpful feedback on earlier drafts, and to a Temple University Summer Research Award for support in revising the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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