Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Caucus Q's Answered: 12 PM Section

1. If Scanlon's theory says that we are blameworthy then our relationships are changed, then aren't individual humans responsible for judging morality?  Aren't human beings too subjective to have this authority?

Well, for those who want an objective human-independent source of morality, perhaps Scanlon's view is not satisfactory.  But is it not that case that we do judge each other's morality?  When a friend violates your relationship, isn't it you that blames the friend?  I agree that humans may be too subjective to have such authority, but it seems that we do have this authority.  Also, we can guard against subjective biases by (1) thinking philosophically about morality and (2) discussing morality with lots of other people, to make sure that we are not being biased.  Also, Scanlon grounds moral responsibility not just in individuals but in the social practices made up of different kinds of relationships.  Individuals may create these relationships, but ultimately, friendship and families are social practices that go beyond individual human beings.

2. So if nobody can cause themselves, does that mean that we are not morally responsible for anything as long as you never learned from your parents?  

This is exactly what is at issue in Strawson's paper.  Strawson thinks that because we cannot cause ourselves, we are not morally responsible.  A compatabilist like Scanlon will say that we do have some ability to shape ourselves, so we are morally responsible.  Personally, I say that Strawson's argument does not show that we lack moral responsibility because even if there is one point where we did not cause our capacity for choice, it is sufficient to have every subsequent choice in order to ground moral responsibility.

3. Are "happiness" and "the good life" synonymous?

For Aristotle, yes.  For other authors, no.  Epictetus thinks that happiness is necessary for the good life, but he does not think that the two are the same thing.  For Kant, we can live well by being moral and we need not be happy in order to live a good life.

4. How is having a character flaw related to blame?  If an action is done by someone because it is a part of their character, are they not to blame?

This is another question that depends on the issue of whether determinism is compatible with moral responsibility.  If determinism is true and if determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility, then a person is not to blame for his or her character flaws.  But if determinism is false or if determinism is compatible with moral responsibility, then a person can be blamed for character flaws.

5. How much do external circumstances matter for moral luck?

According to Williams, it seems that moral luck depends entirely on external factors.  But for Nagel, who thinks that moral luck requires that a person must already be negligent or intending to do some bad action.  For Nagel, external circumstances are necessary for moral luck but they are not sufficient.  Someone also must be negligent or careless, for example.

6. What is considered incompatibalism and compatibalism?

Well, early in the quarter we talked about compatibalism and incompatibalism about luck and determinism.  Determinism is the view that all events are directly caused by prior physical events.  Compatibalists think that luck is compatible with determinism.  Incompatibalists think that luck is incompatible with determinism.  Now we are talking about compatibalism and incompatibalism about luck and moral responsibility or about determinism and moral responsibility.  Compatibalists think that moral responsibility is compatible with luck and/or determinism.  Incompatibalists think that determinism is not compatible with luck and/or determinism.  Incompatibalists think that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility because in order to have moral responsibility, we must have the chance to have acted other than we acted.  If determinism is true, then there is no possible way that we can act other than we do act.  Compatibalists think that we can be morally responsible in spite of determinism because of either (1) the reasons that we have for acting or (2) because we harm our relationships when we act.

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