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I argue for an account of blame as a reactive attitude, claiming that respectful blaming attitudes are affective, evaluative attitudes of disapproval directed at the wrongdoer, and are primarily about the wrongness of the attitudes or actions at issue. Understanding blame as, primarily, a form of moral address, entails that blaming attitudes ought to at least be capable of recognizing and engaging with wrongdoers’ moral capacities, addressing them as competent moral agents. Attitudes of ill will, I contend, cannot do this as such attitudes are primarily concerned with hoping or ensuring that a wrongdoer suffers, rather than being concerned with what is wrong with her attitudes. Like many others, I employ P.F. Strawson’s basic framework to understand blame as an affective, attitudinal stance we take toward one whose quality of will we deem lacking. Our reactive attitudes constitute our recognition of another as a person – recognizing her actions and attitudes as hers – and, as such, constitute a form of respect. Blame is, in the main, a form of moral appraisal. As such, it attributes to a wrongdoer responsibility for the wrong, and may hope for her acceptance of responsibility for wrongdoing, and her acknowledgement of moral values that her wrongdoing failed to respect; appropriate blame does not simply contemplate the wrongdoer’s feeling bad per se. Attitudes of ill will that respond to wrongdoing are reactive attitudes, and they can be blaming attitudes, as they recognize another’s agency in her wrongdoing; but such attitudes are not of the sort to engage with the wrongdoer’s moral capacities and so they are not respectful blaming attitudes. Respectfully blaming wrongdoers requires more than simply recognizing a wrongdoer’s agency by having a reaction to her; the reaction itself must actively recognize her agential capacities for moral understanding for blame to be respectful. My account thus not only shows how respectful blaming goes beyond a mere assessment of an agent as blameworthy, but it has the additional benefit of being able to show how reactivity as a form of respect need not ever be explained in terms that would, in the usual case, be understood as deeply disrespectful of personhood and agency. In chapters 1 & 2, I outline my view of blame as a reactive attitude, and argue for my position that respectful blaming attitudes do not include ill will. To demonstrate my view, in chapter 3 I consider how contempt can constitute a respectful blaming attitude. In chapter 4, I consider how my view of blaming appropriately relates to criminal punishment. I defend the proposition that interpersonal blame and criminal punishment are less continuous than most people assume them to be, and argue that respect for persons need not entail that punishment be understood as the intentional infliction of suffering that is deserved, and that regarding an offender with non-reactive attitudes in the criminal context need not entail any disrespect.
- Philosophy