The limits of evil and the role of moral address

A defense of strawsonian compatibilism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

P.F. Strawson defends compatibilism by appeal to our natural commitment to the interpersonal community and the reactive attitudes. While Strawson's compatibilist project has much to recommend it, his account of moral agency appears incomplete. Gary Watson has attempted to fortify Strawson's theory by appeal to the notion of moral address. Watson then proceeds to argue, however, that Strawson's theory of moral responsibility (so fortified) would commit Strawson to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. Watson also argues that the reactive attitudes do not lend unequivocal support to Strawsonian com-patibilism and that the reactive attitudes are sometimes sensitive to considerations which suggest an incompatibilist or skeptical diagnosis. Watson attempts to provide a Strawsonian defense against these difficulties, but he ultimately concludes that the skeptical threats raised against Strawsonian compatibilism cannot be sufficiently silenced. I believe that Watson has done Strawsonian compatibilism a great service by drawing upon the notion of moral address. In this paper I attempt to defend the Strawsonian compatibilist position, as Watson has cast it, against the problems raised by Watson. I argue against Watson that Strawson's theory of responsibility, as well as the notion of moral address, does not commit the Strawsonian to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. I also argue that Watson misinterprets the point of certain reactive attitudes and thereby wrongly assumes that these attitudes are evidence against Strawsonian compatibilism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-142
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Ethics
Volume2
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Evil
Reactive Attitudes
Compatibilism
Compatibilist
Excuse
Incompatibilist
Incomplete
Threat
Moral Agency
Responsibility
P. F. Strawson
Moral Responsibility

Keywords

  • Compatibilism
  • Control
  • Evil
  • Moral responsibility
  • Strawson

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

Cite this

The limits of evil and the role of moral address : A defense of strawsonian compatibilism. / McKenna, Michael S.

In: Journal of Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, 06.1998, p. 123-142.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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