"Ought" Claims And Blame In A Deterministic World
This dissertation examines two aspects of morality: (i) normative "ought" claims and (ii) blame. It is argued that these aspects of morality are compatible with "determinism," the theory that all events are causally necessitated by prior events and the laws of nature. No position is taken on the likelihood that the world is deterministic. Instead, this dissertation rebuts arguments for incompatibilism and attempts to explain why determinism, if true, should not undermine these two aspects of morality. Chapter One focuses on the intuitive, but controversial, proposition that moral "ought" claims imply "can" claims. This principle can seem to entail that, if determinism is true, no one ought to do anything other than what he or she actually does. Chapter One argues that "A ought to do X" implies only that A has the ability and the opportunity to do X, not the will to do X, and thus, that it can be true that a person ought to do something even if that person is causally determined to do otherwise. Chapters Two and Three focus on blame and blameworthiness. Chapter Two reviews contemporary accounts of blame and offers an alternative account, on which blameworthiness involves a change in moral standing, including a loss of claims against certain forms of suffering and the acquisition of special obligations. Blaming involves actually caring about these changes by treating a person with decreased moral respect and demanding that the special obligations are satisfied. Chapter Three addresses the idea that a person cannot be blameworthy for an action unless she could have done otherwise. Many who believe that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism reject this principle on the basis of a counterexample developed by Harry Frankfurt. Chapter Three argues for a conception of moral responsibility that entails a more plausible principle about responsibility: that to be blameworthy, it must be possible for the person to have behaved differently. This weaker principle is not shown to be false by Frankfurt's counterexample, it is necessary to support judgments about the desert of blame, and it does not lead to incompatibilism about determinism and moral responsibility.
Moral Responsibility; Incompatibilism; Blame; Compatibilism; Determinism; Ought; Can
Sturgeon, Nicholas Lee; Ginet, Carl Allen
Ph.D. of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis