chapter  1
2 Pages


WithZac Cogley

It is commonly held that the most significant notion of moral responsibility in the free will debate is being deserving of blame or credit for actions we perform (Zimmerman 1988; Pereboom 2001; Bennett 2002; Strawson 2002; Sommers 2007; McKenna 2012). As Derk Pereboom puts it:

this desert is basic in the sense that the agent would deserve the blame or credit just because he has performed the action, given understanding of its moral status, and not by virtue of consequentialist or contractual considerations. (2008, 168)

While there are different views of exactly what blame is, one very prominent account identifies blame with emotions. Susan Wolf has recently defended such a view, saying that ‘the paradigm of blame involves an “angry” feeling or attitude’ (Wolf 2011, 344). Perhaps the fullest such account is R. Jay Wallace’s (1994, 2011) examination of Strawson’s (1982) reactive emotions, focusing on resentment, anger, and indignation. Pereboom appears to agree with Wolf and Wallace, saying ‘of all the attitudes associated with moral responsibility, it is anger that seems most closely connected with it’ (2001, 208). If blame is identified with resentment, anger, or indignation and if the kind of moral responsibility at issue in the free will debate is that of deserving blame, then we can frame philosophical issues about moral responsibility in terms of whether or not people ever deserve resentment, anger, or indignation for what they do.