Sunday, October 22, 2023

"Simply Responsible"

New from Oxford University Press: Simply Responsible: Basic Blame, Scant Praise, and Minimal Agency by Matt King.

About the book, from the publisher:

We evaluate people all the time for a wide variety of activities. We blame them for miscalculations, uninspired art, and committing crimes. We praise them for detailed brushwork, a superb pass, and their acts of kindness. We accomplish things, from solving crosswords to mastering guitar solos. We bungle our endeavors, whether this is letting a friend down or burning dinner. Sometimes these deeds are morally significant, but many times they are not.

Simply Responsible defends the radical proposal that the blameworthy artist is responsible in just the same way that the blameworthy thief is. We can be responsible for all kinds of different activities, from lip-synching to long division, from murders to meringues, but the relation involved, what author Matt King calls the basic responsibility relation, is the same in every case. We are responsible for the things we do first, then blameworthy or praiseworthy for having done them in light of whether they're good or bad, according to a variety of standards.

Why is this a radical proposal? Firstly, because so much of the contemporary literature on moral responsibility has moralized its nature. According to most accounts, moral responsibility is either a special species of responsibility or else depends on moralized capacities. In contrast, King argues that we get a more complete and unifying picture of responsible agency from a more general theory of responsibility. Secondly, the proposal is radical due to its drastic simplicity. King foregoes many of the complications that feature in other accounts of responsibility, arguing that we can make do with less demanding theoretical elements.
Visit Matt King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue