Responsibility, Reaction, and Value

Author: Zimmerman, Michael

Source: The Journal of Ethics, Volume 14, Number 2, June 2010 , pp. 103-115(13)

Publisher: Springer

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Many writers accept the following thesis about responsibility: (R) For one to be responsible for something is for one to be such that it is fitting that one be the object of some reactive attitude with respect to that thing. This thesis bears a striking resemblance to a thesis about value that is also accepted by many writers: (V) For something to be good (or neutral, or bad) is for it to be such that it is fitting that it be the object of some pro-attitude (or indifference, or some contra-attitude). V has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, in part because of its incorporation into what has come to be called the “buck-passing” account of value. In particular, V is open to three challenges: that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is good is the fitting object of a pro-attitude; that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is the fitting object of a pro-attitude is good; and that, even if there is a strict equivalence between what is good and what is the fitting object of a pro-attitude, still the former is not to be analyzed in terms of the latter. The resemblance between V and R has not been previously commented on, but, once it is recognized, it is clear that R is open to challenges that resemble those to which V is vulnerable. This paper explores both the challenges to V and the parallel challenges to R and discusses responses that may be given to these challenges. The interrelation between V and R is then examined, and a general lesson is drawn concerning how to adjudicate disputes about the nature of moral responsibility.

Keywords: Fitting attitudes; P. F. Strawson; Reactive attitudes; Responsibility; Value

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, 27412, USA, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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