Précis of Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility
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- Vargas, M.R. Philos Stud (2015) 172: 2621. doi:10.1007/s11098-015-0476-3
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The idea of moral responsibility is central to a wide range of our moral, social, and legal practices, and it underpins our basic notion of culpability. Yet the idea of moral responsibility is increasingly viewed with skepticism by researchers and scholars in psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and the law. Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility responds to these challenges, offering a new account of the justification of our practices and judgments of moral responsibility. Three distinctive ideas shape the account. The first is the agency cultivation model, which holds that a system of responsibility practices can derive its justification from the way it supports our agency. The second idea, circumstantialism, is a new way of thinking about agential capacities. This is the view that the capacities required for moral responsibility are functions of agents in circumstances, rather than basic features of agents considered in themselves. The third idea is revisionism, or the idea that a satisfactory theory of moral responsibility will conflict with some aspects of ordinary commitments about freedom and moral responsibility.