Strawson-Freedom and Resentment

Strawson-Freedom and Resentment - P. F. STRAWSON: FREEDOM...

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P. F. STRAWSON: FREEDOM AND RESENTMENT -- The Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website -- The doyen of living English philosophers, by these reflections, took hold of and changed the outlook of a good many other philosophers, if not quite enough. He did so, essentially, by assuming that talk of freedom and responsibility is talk not of facts or truths, in a certain sense, but of our attitudes. His more explicit concern was to look again at the question of whether determinism and freedom are consistent with one another -- by shifting attention to certain personal rather than moral attitudes, first of all gratitude and resentment. In the end, he arrived at a kind of Compatibilist or, as he says, Optimist conclusion. That is no doubt a recommendation but not the largest recommendation of this splendidly rich piece of philosophy. --------------------------------------------------------------- Some philosophers say they do not know what the thesis of determinism is. Others say, or imply, that they do know what it is. Of these, some—the pessimists perhaps—hold that if the thesis is true, then the concepts of moral obligation and responsibility really have no application, and the practices of punishing and blaming, of expressing moral condemnation and approval, are really unjustified. Others—the optimists perhaps—hold that these concepts and practices in no way lose their raison d’être if the thesis of determinism is true. Some hold even that the justification of these concepts and practices requires the truth of the thesis. There is another opinion which is less frequently voiced: the opinion, it might be said, of the genuine moral sceptic. This is that the notions of moral guilt, of blame, of moral responsibility are inherently confused and that we can see this to be so if we consider the consequences either of the truth of determinism or of its falsity. The holders of this opinion agree with the pessimists that these notions lack application if determinism is true, and add simply that they also lack it if determinism is false. If I am asked which of these parties I belong to, I must say it is the first of all, the party of those who do not know what the thesis of determinism is. But this does not stop me from having some sympathy with the others, and a wish to reconcile them. Should not ignorance, rationally, inhibit such sympathies? Well, of course, though darkling, one has some inkling—some notion of what sort of thing is being talked about. This lecture is intended as a move towards reconciliation; so. is likely to seem wrongheaded to everyone. But can there be any possibility of reconciliation between such clearly opposed positions as those of pessimists and optimists about determinism? Well, there might be a formal withdrawal on one side in return for a substantial concession on the other. Thus, suppose the optimist’s position were put like this: (1) the facts as we know them do not show determinism to be false; (2) the facts as we know
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This note was uploaded on 04/20/2008 for the course PHIL 120 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Santa Clara.

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Strawson-Freedom and Resentment - P. F. STRAWSON: FREEDOM...

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