Blame, Reasons and Capacities
It is usually agreed that we must recognise that responsibility (in the sense of blameworthiness) comes in degrees if we are to accurately reflect the moral landscape of people’s actions. In this paper I develop this view by constructing a framework which will allow us to determine the degree to which an agent is blameworthy for failing to act. This framework accommodates the close connection between an agent’s blameworthiness and her reasons, which I argue should lead us to see reasons as coming in degrees. The view that reasons come in degrees is justified on the basis of two claims: first, reasons are constrained by what it is possible for the agent to do, and second, it may be possible to some degree for an agent to do something. I conclude the paper by demonstrating how this framework can be used to justify claims about the degree to which an agent has a reason, and the degree to which an agent can be blameworthy in a given case.
KeywordsActual World Reason Condition Rational Capacity Intrinsic Quality Close World
- Dennett, Daniel. 1984. Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Espinoza, Nicolas, and Martin Peterson. 2011. “Some Versions of the Number Problems Have No Solution.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13(4):439–51.Google Scholar
- Honoré, Tony. 1998. “Being Responsible and Being a Victim of Circumstance.” Reprinted in 1999, Responsibility and Fault, 121–42. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
- Pettit, Philip, and Michael Smith. 2006. “External Reasons.” In McDowell and His Critics, edited by Cynthia Macdonald and Graham Macdonald, 140–68. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Williams, Bernard. 1989. “Internal Reasons and the Obscurity of Blame.” Reprinted in 1995, Making Sense of Humanity: And Other Philosophical Papers, edited by Bernard Williams, 35–45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar