Pamela Hieronymi “The Force and Fairness of Blame”


Philosophical cowardice will not be tolerated, Sean. Look how boldly I expose my ideas for consideration. Please find fault and correct me:

Pamela Hieronymi’s central claim is that the “target charge” cannot be leveled against the judgment aspect of blame. When we sufficient reasons to find ill will in someone/some action/some state of affairs, we judge that ill will is present. I take it that our reactive attitudes then are a manifestation of our judgment toward that person. Hieronymi claims that were we to first judge that ill will is present, only to subsequently discover that the agent’s history was such that the action could not (likely, she suggests) have been otherwise, the judgment of ill will would not be unfair (the target claim suggests that the judgment would be unfair).

Assuming I have understood her correctly, I have a problem concerning ill will in humans (I have others with respect to non-humans). If S judges that P’s action (p) expresses ill will (call this belief J), only to find that p is the result of some force (largely) outside P’s control, I suggest that we can still find J unfair. If ill will is limited to humans, it is presumably limited to humans because of certain characteristics they possess that other things do not possess. If it is merely the ability to enter into mutually-regarding relationships (as Hieronymi seems to suggest), then if it be shown that a person cannot enter into a mutually-regarding relationship because of some force of (even local) determination, how is J still fair? It is certainly false, as Hieronymi suggests, but to maintain J in the face of evidence that J is false is, I suggest non-contentiously, to judge unfairly, not just inaccurately.

Note: she cashes out her response in terms of the unfairness of judgment management instead of the first-order judgment. I suggest we just say that to maintain J is unfair and it’s not at all clear what Hieronymi has gained.


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2 Responses to “Pamela Hieronymi “The Force and Fairness of Blame””

  1. seanlandis Says:

    What reason does Hieronymi give for finding this kind of judgment fair? Is it based on what is reasonable to know at the time of the judgment? That is, is it because S doesn’t know that P couldn’t have done otherwise at the time S makes her judgment?

  2. Travis Says:

    She doesn’t touch the “could have done otherwise”. Well, she rejects that that is a requirement for moral responsibility. To be fair, she says that the judgment cannot be unfair BECAUSE of the force it has. She may be saying that the judgment can be unfair if it’s not true. The epistemic questions aren’t really developed.

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