Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

MORAL OBLIGATION, BLAME, AND SELF-GOVERNANCE

John Skorupskia1

a1 Moral Philosophy, University of St. Andrews

Abstract

This paper shows how moral concepts are definable in terms of reasons for the blame sentiment. It then shows how, given that definition, the categoricity of moral obligation follows from some plausible principles about reasons for blame. The nature of moral agency is further considered in this light. In particular, in what sense is it self-governing agency? Self-governing actors must be at least self-determining: that is, they must be able to think about what reasons they have, in order in order to assess what they have sufficient reason to believe, feel, or do. Thus any moral assessment implies that the person assessed is capable of self-governance in that sense. Furthermore, this notion of self-governance implies that an agent's moral obligations are relative to the agent's warranted beliefs. However it does not entail that moral agents must be autonomous, in the strong sense intended by Kant. Some consequences for modern conceptions of morality are considered.

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