The collectivity of blaming

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In this paper I want to argue that acts of blame are performed by collectives, and not by any collective but only by collectives that satisfy certain conditions – broadly those that, by collectivizing reason, can be held to be autonomous subjects to which it makes sense to attribute attitudes, including participant reactive attitudes such as resentment. The actors involved must also be related to the collective in particular ways in order to hold and be held responsible, but they need not have the same attitudes as the collective.
This implies both that our attributions of moral responsibility to an agent does not depend only on facts about the agent but also on facts about us, and that the reasons for which we hold responsible and by which we justify our moral practices, and which the agent can likewise appeal to in an attempt to avoid being held responsible, depend on the collective involved and its substantive ethical precepts. The answer to whether an agent is responsible, or is an appropriate object of a reactive attitude, is not to be settled purely by philosophical analysis, and even the kind of naturalistic description of the pattern of our reactive attitudes that Strawson suggests in “Freedom and Resentment” will only go part of the way – the excuses and exemptions are things we might say in a dialogue where reasons are exchanged, but each collective has some leeway over what substantive reasons count as grounds of an excuse or exemption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalKriterion - Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Responsibility
  • Blame
  • Reactive attitudes
  • Collective intentionality
  • Group speech-acts


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