Conversation and Responsibility

Hardcover | March 28, 2012

byMichael Mckenna

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In this book Michael McKenna advances a new theory of moral responsibility, one that builds upon the work of P. F. Strawson. As McKenna demonstrates, moral responsibility can be explained on analogy with a conversation. The relation between a morally responsible agent and those who hold hermorally responsible is similar to the relation between a speaker and her audience. A responsible agent's actions are bearers of meaning - agent meaning - just as a speaker's utterances are bearers of speaker meaning. Agent meaning is a function of the moral quality of the will with which the agentacts. Those who hold an agent morally responsible for what she does do so by responding to her as if in a conversation. By responding with certain morally reactive attitudes, such as resentment or indignation, they thereby communicate their regard for the meaning taken to be revealed in that agent'sactions. It is then open for the agent held responsible to respond to those holding her responsible by offering an apology, a justification, an excuse, or some other response, thereby extending the evolving conversational exchange.The conversational theory of moral responsibility that McKenna develops here accepts two features of Strawson's theory: that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal - so that being responsible must be understood by reference to the nature of holding responsible - and that the moralemotions are central to holding responsible. While upholding these two aspects of Strawson's theory, McKenna's theory rejects a further Strawsonian thesis, which is that holding morally responsible is more fundamental or basic than being morally responsible. On the conversational theory, theconditions for holding responsible are dependent on the nature of the agent who is responsible. So holding responsible cannot be more basic than being responsible. Nevertheless, the nature of the agent who is morally responsible is to be understood in terms of sensitivity to those who would makemoral demands of her, thereby holding her responsible. Being responsible is therefore also dependent on holding responsible. Thus, neither being nor holding morally responsible is more basic than the other. They are mutually dependent.

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In this book Michael McKenna advances a new theory of moral responsibility, one that builds upon the work of P. F. Strawson. As McKenna demonstrates, moral responsibility can be explained on analogy with a conversation. The relation between a morally responsible agent and those who hold hermorally responsible is similar to the relation...

Michael McKenna is Professor of Philosophy and Keith Lehrer Chair at the University of Arizona.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 6.42 × 9.29 × 1.1 inPublished:March 28, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199740038

ISBN - 13:9780199740031

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction: Moral Responsibility, Conversation and Meaning1. Responsibility: A Conceptual Map1. Kinds of Responsibility2. Morally Responsible Agency3. Moral Responsibility for Conduct4. Holding Morally Responsible5. Moral Responsibility, Entailment, and the Concept of Moral Responsibility2. Reorienting Strawson's Theory of Moral Responsibility1. Variations on Strawson's Theory2. Embracing and Developing Wallace's Principle (N)3. A Normative Interpretation versus an Extreme Metaphysical Interpretation4. Two Distinctions5. Resisting a Strawsonian Theme: The Explanatory Role of Holding Responsible6. A Modest Metaphysical Interpretation3. Moral Responsibility and Quality of Will1. A Strawsonian Quality of Will Thesis2. The Morally Reactive Attitudes and their Attendant Practices3. Pleas: Reasons to Modify the Reactive Attitudes3.1 Excuses and Justifications3.2 Exemptions4. Conversation and Responsibility1. The Intimate Link between Being and Holding Responsible2. Introducing a Conversational Theory of Moral Responsibility3. Agent Meaning and Morally Responsible Agency4. Agent Meaning and Action Meaning5. What Kind of Meaning is Agent Meaning?6. The Place of Meaning in Other Theories of Responsibility5. Genuine Responsibility: Defending a Conversational Theory1. A Robinson-Crusoe-type Objection2. Why Affect?3. Moral Responsibility without Desert?4. Moral Responsibility with Desert?4.1 Basic Desert4.2 Ultimate Responsibility and What is Deserved4.3 Axiological, Deontological, or Both?6. Conversation and Deserved Blame1. In Search of Desert Thesis2. What's the Harm in Blaming?3. Articulating a Desert Thesis for Blame4. A Challenge for the Moral Responsibility Skeptic7. Blame's Warrant1. The Challenge of Proper Warrant2. Justifying Blame in the Absence of Desert3. Justifying Blame by Way of Non-Basic Desert4. Why not Basic Desert?4. Why not Basic Desert?8. Conversation and the Scope of Moral Responsibility1. Blaming in the Absence of the Blamed2. A Restrictive View of Moral Responsibility's Scope3. Blameworthiness for Bad Acts?4. Blameworthiness for the Nonvoluntary?5. Conversation and a Unified Account of Moral Responsibility's Scope9. Conclusion