Call for papers: “Basic Desert”, special issue of Philosophical Explorations

Invited Contributors: Michael McKenna, Dana Nelkin, Adina Roskies, and Thomas Scanlon

Guest Editors: Derk Pereboom and Maureen Sie

Submission Deadline:  Oct 1st, 2012 (please let us know that you aim to submit, before March 2012)

Submission Details

Please send a pdf-version of your paper (max. 8000 words) to Maureen Sie.

Contributions that do not make it to the special issue may be considered for publication in one of the regular issues of *Philosophical Explorations*.

Please direct any inquiries about this call for papers to Maureen Sie, mention ”Basic Desert” as subject.

Background and Aim

In 1962, P. F. Strawson concluded his hallmark essay “Freedom and Resentment” with the remark that a sufficiently modified version of the optimist’s view on moral responsibility is the right one. With this he had in mind that our everyday practice of holding each other morally responsibility retains its raison d’être even if free will as libertarians construe it turns out to be illusory. By his lights, optimists justify this practice solely by its beneficial consequences, while pessimists correctly reject this strategy. A key claim of Strawson’s is that the pessimist’s reaction discloses how deeply rooted our natural reactive attitudes are, and his famous contention is that the metaphysical debate on the issue of free will and moral responsibility should take these attitudes as its point of departure. The quest for a justification for holding each other moral responsibility can only be understood from within the practice itself, and it is the reactive attitudes that lie at the core of this practice.

The half a century since the appearance of Strawson’s paper has witnessed significant developments of multiple perspectives on free will and moral responsibility. Many compatibilists have been strongly influenced by Strawson’s view, and some have linked it to accounts of responsibility in which our ability to act in response to reasons, or else the notion of a real self, has the crucial role. Libertarians have set out new and more sophisticated versions of the non-causal, event-causal, and agent-causal perspectives, and in many such accounts, Strawson’s notion of what moral responsibility is has had a major influence.  But at the same time, philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists have attempted to cast doubt on whether a notion of moral responsibility as strong as Strawson’s legitimately applies to us, and some have claimed that we should abandon or radically change our everyday practices of holding each other morally responsible.

A focal point of the current discussion is the claim that the reactive attitudes presuppose a robust notion of desert. When one agent is indignant with another, the attitude in some sense presupposes that the agent to whom it is directed deserves, in a robust sense, that indignation.  It remains open whether the desert that is presupposed can be given a contractualist or consequentialist account, or whether it is basic in the sense that the agent deserves the indignation just because she has knowingly committed an immoral action. This special issue of Philosophical Explorations seeks contributions that shed light on the notion of desert implicated in our practice of holding each other morally responsible, and on whether and how such a notion might be retained in the face of the challenges that have sought to dislodge it.

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