On Blame and Punishment: Respect and Responsibility for Forming a Self
25 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2020
Date Written: August 26, 2020
Accounts of punitive blame — blame that is the proper basis for punishment — tend to fall into two camps: those that focus on choices (understood broadly to include options that could have been chosen even if not considered) and those that focus on quality of will or character. Doug Husak argues in favor of a reason-responsive view of choice, according to which the paradigm of blameworthy choice is taking oneself to have sufficient reason not to do something but being too weak willed not to do it. This view implies that negligent behavior, in which an agent should be but is not aware of reasons not to do what she does, is not blameworthy. I argue here that this account of blame is internally inconsistent. I offer in its place an Aristotelian account of becoming responsible for the kind of person one is as a precondition for blame. This is a different kind of choice view according to which an agent who acts wrongly is not blamed for the kind of person she is; she is blamed for her wrongful choices, but only insofar as she had a fair opportunity to become the kind of person she is rather than the kind who would not make them.
Keywords: Blame, punishment, choice, character, Husak, Aristotle
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