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Action, Ethics, and Responsibility

Action, Ethics, and Responsibility

Joseph Keim Campbell
Michael OʹRourke
Harry S. Silverstein
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press,
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Action, Ethics, and Responsibility
    Book Description:

    Most philosophical explorations of responsibility discuss the topic solely in terms of metaphysics and the "free will" problem. By contrast, these essays by leading philosophers view responsibility from a variety of perspectives -- metaphysics, ethics, action theory, and the philosophy of law. After a broad, framing introduction by the volume's editors, the contributors consider such subjects as responsibility as it relates to the "free will" problem; the relation between responsibility and knowledge or ignorance; the relation between causal and moral responsibility; the difference, if any, between responsibility for actions and responsibility for omissions; the metaphysical requirements for making sense of "collective" responsibility; and the relation between moral and legal responsibility. The contributors include such distinguished authors as Alfred R. Mele, John Martin Fischer, George Sher, and Frances Kamm, as well as important rising scholars. Taken together, the essays in Action, Ethics, and Responsibility offer a breadth of perspectives that is unmatched by other treatments of the topic.Contributors: Joseph Keim Campbell, David Chan, Randolph Clarke, E.J. Coffman, John Martin Fischer, Helen Frowe, Todd Jones, Frances Kamm, Antti Kauppinen, Alfred R. Mele, Michael O'Rourke, Paul Russell, Robert F. Schopp, George Sher, Harry S. Silverstein, Saul Smilansky, Donald Smith, Charles T. WolfeThe hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28927-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Action, Ethics, and Responsibility: A Framework
    (pp. 1-24)
    Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael OʹRourke and Harry S. Silverstein

    The essays in this volume concern a wide variety of topics, all of which are significantly related to the issue of responsibility, including metaphysics, action theory, ethics and moral theory, and the philosophy of law. The first section of this introductory chapter will consider metaphysics; the second will focus on the remaining topics.

    As a provisional definition, let’s suppose that a person ismorally responsiblefor performing an action if and only if he is an appropriate subject of moral praise or blame (Fischer and Ravizza 1998, 6). Given this understanding, what conditions are necessary in order for a person...

  5. 2 A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing
    (pp. 25-46)
    David K. Chan

    Warren Quinn¹ and Philippa Foot² have both given versions of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing (DDA) that justify a moral distinction between doing something to bring about harm and doing nothing to prevent harm. They argue that whereas it is justified to allow one person to die so that one can save a larger number of people, it is not permissible to kill one person to achieve the same purpose. They defend the distinction on the basis of an account of positive and negative rights. Consequentialist moral philosophers, on the other hand, hold that if killing and letting die...

  6. 3 Killing John to Save Mary: A Defense of the Moral Distinction between Killing and Letting Die
    (pp. 47-66)
    Helen Frowe

    This essay considers Michael Tooley’s argument that initiating a causal process is morally equivalent to refraining from interfering in that process. Tooley develops the Moral Symmetry Principle in order to show the moral irrelevance of whether a person causes, or merely allows, some outcome to occur. Tooley argues that the Moral Symmetry Principle is not vulnerable to the objection that it equates actions that are morally distinct. By distinguishing between preventative actions that interfere with another agent’s action from preventative actions that do not, we can resist the inference that I am just as responsible for stopping you from initiating...

  7. 4 Making Up Oneʹs Mind
    (pp. 67-84)
    Randolph Clarke

    Often, on the basis of practical reasoning, one makes up oneʹs mind to do a certain thing. In so doing, one comes to have an intention to do that thing. As well, one often engages in theoretical reasoning and, on that basis, makes up one’s mind how things stand in some matter, thereby coming to have a certain belief.

    Making up oneʹs mind in either of these types of case is sometimes called deciding : in the first type of case,practical deciding(Mele 2000, 82)¹ ordeciding-to-do(O’Shaughnessy 1980, 297); in the latter,cognitive(Mele 2000, 82) or doxastic...

  8. 5 Conscious Intentions
    (pp. 85-108)
    Alfred R. Mele

    Anthony Marcel writes: “Oddly, many psychologists seem to assume that intentions are by their nature conscious” (Marcel 2003, 60). Daniel Wegner asserts that “Intentionis normally understood as an idea of what one is going to do that appears in consciousness just before one does it” (Wegner 2002, 18). If this allegedly normal understanding of “intention” is treated as adefinitionof “intention,” then, by definition, any item that does not “appear in consciousness” is not an intention, and intentions are “by their nature conscious.” Is not an intention, and intentions are “by their nature conscious.” Is the connection between...

  9. 6 Lockeʹs Compatibilism: Suspension of Desire or Suspension of Determinism?
    (pp. 109-126)
    Charles T. Wolfe

    Naturalistic theories of mind and action are typically considered to be recent arrivals on the philosophical scene, in contrast with theories that insist on a categorical separation between actions and events, such as agent causation, which is typically traced back to Aristotle, and can be found in medieval and early modern thinkers such as Francisco Suarez, Samuel Clarke, the Cambridge Platonists, Kant, and Reid, to name but a few. For example, Clarke declares, “When we say, in vulgar speech, that motives or reasons determine a man, ’tis nothing but a mere figure or metaphor. ’Tis the man, that freely determines...

  10. 7 The Fall of the Mind Argument and Some Lessons about Freedom
    (pp. 127-148)
    E. J. Coffman and Donald Smith

    Libertarians believe that freedom exists but is incompatible with determinism, and so are committed to the compatibility of freedom andindeterminism. Perhaps the most pressing objection to libertarianism is the so-calledMindargument for the incompatibility of freedom and indeterminism. This essay presents a new criticism of theMindargument that is at once decisive and instructive. After some preliminaries, we introduce a plausible principle (γ) that places a requirement on one’s having a choice about an event whose causal history includes only otherevents. We then argue for these three claims:

    TheMindargument presupposes that γ is true,...

  11. 8 Selective Hard Compatibilism
    (pp. 149-174)
    Paul Russell

    Recent work in compatibilist theory has focused a considerable amount of attention on the question of the nature of the capacities required for freedom and moral responsibility. Compatibilists, obviously, reject the suggestion that these capacities involve an ability to act otherwise in the same circumstances. That is, these capacities do not provide for any sort of libertarian, categorical free will. The difficulty, therefore, is to describe some plausible alternative theory that is richer and more satisfying than the classical compatibilist view that freedom is simply a matter of being able to do as one pleases or act according to the...

  12. 9 Manipulation and Guidance Control: A Reply to Long
    (pp. 175-186)
    John Martin Fischer

    With my coauthor, Mark Ravizza, I have sought to sketch an overall framework for moral responsibility. Part of this framework involves the presentation of an account of a distinctive sort of control,guidance control; on our view, guidance control is the freedom-relevant condition necessary and sufficient for moral responsibility. (I distinguish guidance control fromregulative control, according to which an agent must have genuine metaphysical access to alternative possibilities, and I contend that guidance control, and not regulative control, is properly associated with moral responsibility. See Fischer and Ravizza 1998.)

    On this account, there are two chief components of guidance...

  13. 10 Free Will: Some Bad News
    (pp. 187-202)
    Saul Smilansky

    I believe that if we reflect more on the free will debate, and on ourselves as participants in it, we shall do better in tackling the free will problem. More specifically, I will argue here that the free will debate is characterized by an effort to see the bright side of things. This feature is striking, and it is shared by almost all participants, irrespective of their disagreements. We are not critical enough about this (natural) tendency. And I do include myself here. There is some good news, even if we lack libertarian free will (LFW). But all in all,...

  14. 11 Responsibility and Practical Reason
    (pp. 203-218)
    George Sher

    In theNicomachean Ethics, Aristotle observed that agents are responsible only for what they do voluntarily—that “[a]cts that are voluntary receive praise and blame, whereas those that are involuntary receive pardon and sometimes pity too” (Aristotle 1955, 111). Aristotle also observed that “[a] ctions are regarded as involuntary when they are performed under compulsion or through ignorance” (ibid.). Following Aristotle, most subsequent philosophers have agreed that responsibility has two distinct necessary conditions, one pertaining to the will, the other to knowledge.¹

    Although these conditions seem equally important, they have not received equal amounts of attention. Because philosophers are preoccupied...

  15. 12 The Metaphysics of Collective Agency
    (pp. 219-234)
    Todd Jones

    In both scholarly and everyday discussions of responsibility, the ways in whichcollectiveslike corporations or governments have responsibilities remains a contentious issue (see Kutz 2000; French 1995; May and Hoffman 1991). In such discussions, one comparatively neglected area of focus is the precise metaphysical underpinnings of collective agenthood. We continually speak about collections of people believing, desiring, or being responsible for something (e.g., “Exxon fears that Venezuela is trying make other Latin countries rethink capitalism”). But we seldom think much about exactly how it is possible for a collection of people to do anything like “believe” or “want” in...

  16. 13 Moral Judgment and Volitional Incapacity
    (pp. 235-258)
    Antti Kauppinen

    The central question of the branch of metaethics we may call philosophical moral psychology concerns the nature or essence of moral judgment: what is it to think that something is right or wrong, good or bad, obligatory or forbidden? One datum in this inquiry is that sincerely held moral views appear to influence conduct: on the whole, people do not engage in behaviors they genuinely consider base or evil, sometimes even when they would stand to benefit from it personally. Moral judgments thus appear to be motivationally effective, at least to an extent. This motivational success would be readily explained...

  17. 14 ʺSo Sick He Deserves Itʺ: Desert, Dangerousness, and Character in the Context of Capital Sentencing
    (pp. 259-280)
    Robert F. Schopp

    Discussions of criminal responsibility sometimes frame the inquiry as one regarding the most defensible standard for categorizing an offender as either bad or mad (Morse 2003, 165; Resnek 1997, 1–2; Schopp 2003, 324). Although the insanity defense calls for a dichotomous categorization of offenders as either bad (criminally responsible) or mad (not guilty due to insanity), some capital sentencing statutes include as a mitigating factor psychological disorder that is not sufficient to preclude criminal responsibility but renders the offender less culpable than unimpaired offenders who commit similar crimes (Model Penal Code §210.6[4][g] [1962]; 18 United States Code §3592 [a][1]...

  18. 15 Types of Terror Bombing and Shifting Responsibility
    (pp. 281-294)
    Frances Kamm

    When philosophers discuss intentional harm to noncombatants (NCs) in war or conflicts outside war, they tend to focus on terror bombing and its distinction from, for example, tactical bombing that can also cause harm and terror to NCs as collateral damage. In this essay, I shall consider some different ways in which deliberately causing harm and terror to NCs can occur. It seems that, at least through World War II, only some of these ways were considered by policymakers to be “terror bombing” that one had a moral obligation to avoid. (The latter has the characteristics typical of terror bombing...

  19. Contributors
    (pp. 295-296)
  20. Index
    (pp. 297-307)