Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: A Theory of Blame and Blameworthiness
Authors: Gease, Arlyss
Advisors: Rosen, Gideon
Harman, Elizabeth
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation develops a theory of moral blame and of blameworthiness, the conditions under which an agent is an appropriate target for moral blame. Chapter One argues against the thesis that the facts that determine whether an agent is blameworthy for some behavior are facts to which she stands in a certain epistemic relationship. It is true that an agent is blameworthy for the consequences of some act or omission only if she knows of the risk that her behavior will have such consequences. However, an agent can be blameworthy because she acts on certain morally objectionable motivations even if she does not stand in any particular epistemic relationship to the fact that she is so motivated. What ultimately matters to blameworthiness is not an agent’s epistemic state, but the quality of will expressed by her behavior. Chapter Two gives a precise account of when an agent expresses the kind of morally objectionable quality of will that is necessary for blameworthiness. I argue that such a quality of will is expressed when (i) an agent’s beliefs and desires rationalize behavior that (ii) the agent possesses moral reasons not to engage in, reasons that (iii) the agent’s motivations fail to counterbalance. The reason that blame is governed by these conditions, I argue, is that blaming someone involves having a thought about the offending agent’s motivations that is true only if these conditions are met. Chapter Three argues that any moral norm that bears on whether an agent merits sanctions for her behavior also bears on whether she is blameworthy for that behavior. The chapter answers recent criticism of this position by identifying a feature of moral blame that explains why blame should be governed by the same moral norms that determine whether an agent merits sanctions, namely, that in blaming someone for engaging in some behavior, one takes there to be no backward-looking moral principles that prohibit sanctioning her for that behavior. This discussion motivates a novel account of blame that contrasts with pure cognitivist theories of blame and theories on which blame is essentially retributive.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Gease_princeton_0181D_11962.pdf839.71 kBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.