Agency and Responsibility: A Common-Sense Moral Psychology

Paperback | November 2, 2003

byJeanette Kennett

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Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of willand compulsion collapse. This would threaten our ordinary notion of self-control and undermine our practice of holding each other responsible for moral failure. So a clear and plausible account of how weakness of will and self-control are possible is of great practical significance.Taking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, Jeanette Kennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sensedistinction between weakness of will and compulsion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. She addresses with clarity and insight a range of important topics in moral psychology, such as the nature of valuing and desiring, conceptions of virtue, moral conflict, andthe varieties of recklessness (here characterised as culpable bad judgement) - and does so in terms which make their relations to each other and to the challenges of real life obvious. Agency and Responsibility concludes by testing the accounts developed of self-control, moral failure, and moralresponsibility against the hard cases provided by acts of extreme evil.

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Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of willand compulsion collapse. This would threaten...

Jeanette Kennett is a Professor of Philosophy at Monash University in Australia.

other books by Jeanette Kennett

Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.49 inPublished:November 2, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199266301

ISBN - 13:9780199266302

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Moral Psychology and Common Sense2. Classical Theories of Reasons and Motivations3. Humean Accounts of Reason and Motivation: Davidson and Decision Theory4. Wanting and Valuing5. A Taxonomy of Agent-Control6. Moral Failures and Moral Responsibility: Recklessness, Weakness, Compulsion7. Moral Failure and Moral Responsibility: The Problem of EvildoersBibliography, Index

Editorial Reviews

`Jeanette Kennett has written a nicely balanced, informative and well-argued book on contemporary thought about agency and responsibility.... There are several points where the author's warmth and commitment to a moral life come through while she manages the rigors of analytic philosophy.'Metapsychology