Difficulty and Degrees of Moral Blameworthiness and Praiseworthiness

Dana Nelkin
University of California, San Diego
November 8, 2013  3:00-5:00pm  BUCH A202
Abstract: In everyday life, we assume that there are degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Yet the debate about the nature of moral responsibility often focuses on the “yes or no” question of whether indeterminism is required for moral responsibility, while questions about what accounts for more or less blameworthiness or praiseworthiness are under explored. In this paper, I defend the idea that degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness can depend in part on degrees of difficulty and degrees of sacrifice required for performing (or refraining from) the action in question. Then I turn to the question of how existing accounts of the nature of moral responsibility might be seen to accommodate these facts. In each case of prominent compatibilist and incompatibilist accounts that I consider, I argue that supplementation with added dimensions is required in order to account for facts about degrees of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. For example, I argue that the reasons-responsiveness view of Fischer and Ravizza (1998) requires supplementation that takes us beyond even fine-grained measures of degrees of reasons-responsiveness in order to capture facts about degrees of difficulty (contrary to the recent attempt by Coates and Swenson (2012) to extend the reasons-responsiveness view by appealing to such measures). I conclude by showing that once we recognize the need for these additional parameters, we will be in a position to explain away at least some of the appeal of incompatibilist accounts of moral responsibility. At least some phenomena that incompatibilists explain by appeal to a requirement of the ability to do otherwise for blameworthy action, for example, can instead by explained by appeal to the fact that blameworthiness depends on difficulty and sacrifice.