Concurrent Session 3b: Beyond Control?

Chair: xxx(University)

On Addicts’ Moral Responsibility

Susanne Uusitalo
Department of Philosophy
University of Turku
Turku, Finland

Moral responsibility usually entails some kind of control over oneself and one’s action. Commonly it is regarded that morally responsible agents have control at least in two senses. First, they are able to choose from an array of alternative possibilities, and, second, the origin or source of their choices and actions is in themselves and not in anything or anyone over which they have no control.

In my presentation the first sense of these aspects of control is analysed in relation to gambling. There is controversy in the academic literature how to conceptualise gambling. Some argue that it is a behavioural addiction, some that it is “impulse control disorder”. In both of the conceptualisations the problematic nature of gambling centres in strong desires. In the presentation I will consider gambling a behavioural addiction in which there is a recurring strong desire that calls for its satisfaction.

Addicts are usually seen as somehow out of control. Their action is not considered to be the same as non-addicted persons. In this presentation, I take that addicts have general competence to make decisions: for instance they seem to be able to choose what to wear on a daily basis, and they can decide to get married. I will analyse whether the gamblers’ alleged loss of control is the relevant kind that affects their moral responsibility for their addictive acts, i.e. acts that are conducted in order to feed their addiction.

Self-Governance and Moral Responsibility

Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin
Department of Philosophy
University of California
Riverside, USA

The relationship between self-governance and moral responsibility is problematical. One reason for difficulty is the phenomenon of weakness of will. Leading theories of self-governance seem to entail that weak action is not self-governed. If these theories are supposed also to provide accounts of moral responsibility, then their acceptance seems to offer up the hard to swallow consequence that agents are not responsible for weak actions.

In this paper I explore a strategy for reconciling the insights of recent work on self-governance with the considered judgment that agents are responsible for weak actions. There are two key moves to the strategy. First, we distinguish between weakly and strongly internal psychological states of the agent. Second, we adopt an aspectual view of the self. Together these moves allow us to say (i) that self-governed behavior is explained in terms of strongly internal sates, (ii) that moral responsibility is explained in terms of weakly internal states and (iii) that weakness of will is exhibited when one’s behavior is explained in terms of weakly internal states that conflict with and win out over strongly internal states. Thus one is responsible for weak action though it is not self-governed. This strategy preserves a relationship between accounts of self-governance and accounts of moral responsibility and makes no appeal to a ‘True’ or ‘Real’ self. What we have are aspects of oneself suitable to distinct, yet intricately related domains in the philosophy of action.