chapter  4
4 Pages

Recent experimental work on free will and moral practices

Strawson’s game-changing move in Freedom and Resentment was to pay close attention to people’s actual moral practices and the beliefs and attitudes that underlie them, rather than to look for abstract metaphysical justifications. However, to really embrace Strawson’s exhortation we need to know more about those practices, which have conceptual, linguistic, and social components. Of particular importance are the conceptual assumptions people make in their moral assessments because these assumptions may reveal whether they require robust freedom of the will for moral responsibility, whether they take responsibility to be a necessary condition of desert, or what other criteria of desert are heeded. Strawson himself was still firmly based in his armchair when analyzing these conceptual assumptions. Whether we want to vindicate or eliminate the human practice of moral assessment, we need to get out of the armchair to document the actual practice. Accordingly, we now turn to some recent empirical studies of the folk concept of free will and the criteria underlying people’s social practice of blame.