Concurrent Session 1a: Reflections on Strawson

Chair: xxx(University)

“Reasons that even Outweigh the Concern for Truth” – Revisiting Strawsonian Arguments from Inescapability

Andras Szigeti
Central European University
Budapest, Hungary

Few would nowadays dispute the claim that Peter Strawson’s Freedom and Resentment marks a new beginning in how philosophers think about responsibility. The novelty of the Strawsonian approach is based on two seminal ideas advanced by Strawson. First, Strawson has shown that there is a connection between the concept of moral responsibility and the world of emotions and that this connection cannot be explained away as merely a contingent feature of human psychology. Second, Freedom and Resentment and Strawson’s subsequent works formulate a highly influential view concerning the justification of responsibility-attributions. The crux of this view is that determinism is irrelevant to the justifiability of responsibility-attributions. These two seminal ideas are not presented independently from one another in Strawson’s argumentation. But they are not logically dependent on one another, it is possible to accept either without accepting the other.

My paper will focus on the second idea. I want to examine the several different arguments advanced by Strawson, and by some other authors of Strawsonian inspiration, in support of this idea. What I expect from this exercise is not merely exegetical clarity. I also hope to show not only that ultimately these arguments must be rejected but also that they are not consistent with one another.

(edited abstract)

Responsibility and Moral Dependency

Philip J. Nickel
Department of Philosophy and Ethics
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
Eindhoven, the Netherlands

In this paper I discuss the relation between moral dependency and responsibility. Moral dependency is defined as a condition in which one person relies on a second person’s testimony for his own moral belief(s). For example, a person whose moral beliefs are based on the beliefs of her spiritual leader, or on the beliefs of her parents, is morally dependent with respect to that belief. My hypothesis is that there is an important distinction to be drawn between cases of moral dependency in which one has a broad recognition of the moral grounds or justification of the moral belief, and cases in which one does not. This is roughly similar to the distinction between cases in which one grasps the concepts that are used in one’s dependent moral belief, and cases in which one does not possess the relevant concepts. I shall argue that in cases in which one grasps relevant moral concepts (and relates them adequately to the dependent belief) one is fully responsible for both  good and bad actions one takes on the basis of the dependent belief. In  cases in which one does not grasp the relevant concepts, one cannot be  responsible for the good actions one takes on that basis, although one  can be responsible for the bad actions one takes on that basis. There  are also vague, intermediate cases. By understanding this distinction we  come to have a better understanding of the  relation between moral  beliefs, moral autonomy and responsibility.