The Structure of Blame and its Relation to the Moral Emotions
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It is not clear what role emotions play in our conception of blame. In this thesis, I aim to understand the role of the emotions in blame, and the question that I explore can be phrased in the following way: is blame contained in the emotions, or, conversely, are the emotions simply a part of blame? Two further questions are the offshoots of this one: what is involved in blaming others; and why do we have reason to care about the content that is involved in blaming others? I call these the substantive and normative questions of blame, which an account of blame must answer if it is to be satisfactory. To situate this broad question, I will focus on R. Jay Wallace’s account of blame. Wallace’s position is that blame is contained in the emotions. I will argue that Wallace’s account holds too tight a relation to allow for responses to our judgments of blameworthiness. At most, Wallace’s account admits of expressions of blameworthiness. Whether we should regard such expressions as necessary or sufficient to count as blame depends on what can be included in our responses to judgments of blameworthiness. To fill in the content of these responses, I turn to T.M. Scanlon’s conception of blame. I conclude that purely emotional accounts reduce the reasons that we have access to in blaming others, and weakens the normative significance that blame has for us. The structure of the thesis is as follows. In Chapter 2, I provide a reconstruction of Wallace’s reactive account. In Chapter 3, I advance the critical claim that Wallace’s reactive account is essentially nonreactive, since, under his depiction, blame holds too tight a relation. In Chapter 4, I offer a reconstruction of Scanlon’s account of blame. In Chapter 5, I apply our knowledge from both accounts to sketch out what a commitment to either view entails, and to assess the reasons that we have to care about blame proposed by each account. I conclude that Wallace’s account is too thin, and that, on such a view, we lose sight of what is significant about blame.