chapter  2
1 Pages

Against realist compatibilism

The rejection of the desert condition can be seen as motivated, at least implicitly and in part, by a rejection of realism about moral responsibility. In ethics, realism is typically contrasted with expressivism or constructivism. Considered in opposition to expressivism, the issue concerns the truth-aptness of moral claims. The contrast with constructivism is more complicated, but essentially the issue concerns whether moral facts are to be found as part of the causal order of the universe or whether they are constructions of reason.7 In the philosophy of science, realism is often contrasted with pragmatism or instrumentalism, the central issue being whether we are justified in believing the theoretical entities postulated by science to have a mind-independent reality or whether we are only justified in taking such postulates as being valuable relative to the goals of science. In talking about a realist view of moral responsibility, I intend primarily a contrast with both constructivism and pragmatism. That is, a realist about moral responsibility holds that (i) facts about a person’s blameworthiness exist prior to and independently of our practices of blaming, and (ii) blame is justified, when it is justified, in virtue of hooking onto some metaphysically real fact about a person’s blameworthiness. In contrast to this realism, I hold that blame is essentially a practical choice that confronts us as socially engaged, deliberative beings.