MIT24_120s09_lec15 - MIT OpenCourseWare http/

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MIT OpenCourseWare 24.120 Moral Psychology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: .
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24.120 MORAL PSYCHOLOGY RICHARD HOLTON XV Free Will III: Strawson Frankfurt argued that moral responsibility doesn’t require the ability to do otherwise; so we can hold people responsible without answering the hard metaphysical question of whether they could have done otherwise. Strawson provides a very different way of trying to disconnect the two issues. Strawson argues that there are two different sorts of attitudes that we can take towards a person: reactive attitudes and objective attitudes. As an example of the first, consider resentment. Suppose someone hurts you: pushes you over for instance. Then you will be apt to feel, not just angry, but resentful towards them. And this ties into a network of attitudes that goes much further than simply holding someone responsible: you might expect them to be sorry; you might forgive them if they do; your affection for them might be lost if they do not; and so on. However, if it turns out that they pushed you by accident these feelings will be diminished; perhaps they will go altogether; it depends on the nature of the case. If they had been rushing to try and help you, and had fallen into you they probably will; indeed they might even be replaced by positive reactive attitudes like gratitude. (Unless they have a history of clumsy over­ solicitous interference.) If, on the other hand, they accidentally pushed you because they were recklessly trying to get past to see someone else, your feelings of resentment might be somewhat reduced, but they are unlikely to go completely. We require certain standards of good will and concern from those around us (how much depends on how close we are to them); and we feel resentment when we think these are not met. (Note: Strawson is rather unclear on what is required: normally he speaks of goodwill, but also of regard, affection and esteem.) The objective attitude, in contrast, requires stepping back from such involvement. We move to it when we truly think that the harm was caused accidentally; here we view the action objectively. In these cases we go on treating the person reactively. But sometimes we no longer take the reactive stance to a person in just about everything they do. Consider, for instance, someone suffering from serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, or severe depression. Here we adopt the objective stance to the person . We no longer feel resentment to them; we rather treat them as people needing to be treated or managed. Why do we suspend the reactive stance when dealing with the very young or the mentally ill? Again because we do not think that their actions
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