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Radical Reversal Cases and Normative Appraisals

Abstract

In Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility, Alfred Mele invokes radical reversal cases in which one agent is covertly manipulated to be just like another agent in relevant respects to defend a version of the following “externalist” thesis: how agents acquire their springs of action, such as desires and beliefs, bears on whether they are morally responsible for their actions. I assess proposed rationales for the crucial verdict that agents in such cases are not responsible for their germane actions. I argue for the superiority of Mele’s rationale and propose that these cases also support accepting an externalist constraint on other normative appraisals, such as those of practical rationality. Key words: Moral obligation; practical rationality; radical reversal cases; ultimate origination; zygote argument.

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Notes

  1. Mele (2019), 6.

  2. Mele (2019), 14–15.

  3. Mele (2019), 48–49.

  4. Specifically, Mele defends what he calls “conditional externalism” (2019, 13–14).

  5. Mele (2019), 19–20. See also, Mele (1995), 145; Mele (2006), 171; Mele (2016), 73.

  6. Mele (2019), 20–21. See, also, Mele (1995), 145; Mele (2006), 171–72; Mele (2016), 73–74.

  7. Mele (2019), 21–22. See, also, Mele (2006), 172; Mele (2016), 75–76.

  8. E.g., Haji 1998, 115–22.

  9. Mele (2019), 86.

  10. McNamara (1996), 424–426.

  11. E.g., McNamara (2011).

  12. E.g., McNamara (1996; 2011), 231.

  13. Mele (2019), 26.

  14. Pereboom (2001), 4, 43.

  15. Perhaps a qualification is apposite: I should have said “my gut-reaction intuitions.” My hope is that at least some readers will share this intuition.

  16. Pereboom (2001, 2014).

  17. Among these other conditions may be the condition that an action for which you are responsible is indeterministically caused.

  18. See, e.g., Kane (1996), 33–37.

  19. Kane (2014), 180–181.

  20. E.g., Haji (2019), 27–31.

  21. Kane (2014), 186.

  22. Kane (2014), 184.

  23. Mele (2019), 83. See, also, Mele (2006), 188.

  24. Mele (2019), 101–102. See, also, Mele (2006), 189.

  25. Mele (2019), 102, 107.

  26. Mele (2019), 110.

  27. A reminder: both responsibility compatibilists and responsibility incompatibilists may have this intuition.

  28. Frankfurt (2002), 27.

  29. Mele (2019), 76.

  30. Feldman (1986), 16–18.

  31. 31. See Feldman 1986, ch. 2. See, also, Zimmerman (1996), 26–27; Haji 2019, 28–29; Hebert (2016), chap. 3.

  32. See Feldman (1997), 160–169; Skow (2012).

  33. Feldman (1997), 63.

  34. Feldman (1997), 164.

  35. Feldman (1997), 166. To save space, I set aside desert principles concerned with negative primary things.

  36. I have in mind desert claims in which the deserver is an agent. A beautiful painting can deserve admiration.

  37. The responsibility at issue is “normative” (like being morally or skills-wise responsible) and not merely causal.

  38. I leave this exercise up to you, the reader.

  39. Mele (2019), 39.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was completed during my tenure of a 2017–2021 Social Sciences and Humanities Research (SSHRC) grant. I thank this granting agency for its support.

Funding

This paper was completed during my tenure of a 2017–2021 Social Sciences and Humanities Research (SSHRC) grant. I thank this granting agency for its support.

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Haji, I. Radical Reversal Cases and Normative Appraisals. Criminal Law, Philosophy 15, 271–284 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11572-020-09558-1

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Keywords

  • Moral obligation
  • Practical rationality
  • Radical reversal cases
  • Ultimate origination
  • Zygote argument