4. Blameworthiness and Forgiveness

When people are morally responsible for a wrongdoing, they are blameworthy. In everyday life there are two important responses to blameworthy actions: blame and forgiveness. However, the interconnections between blameworthiness, blame and forgiveness are complicated and controversial. In this project, we investigate in the nature of blame and forgiveness, and their interconnection.

Main investigators: Christel Fricke (CSMN/IFIKK), Caj Strandberg (CSMN/IFIKK), Andreas Brekke Carlsson (CSMN)


4.1 The Nature of Blame and Blameworthiness

Blame is often understood as a negative emotional response, such as resentment and indignation. On this account, an agent is blameworthy if such a response is appropriate. Recently, however, several competing notions of blame have been proposed, and, accordingly, different notions of blameworthiness. In our inquiry, we shall focus on the connection between blaming a wrongdoer and the wrongdoer’s potential ignorance of factual and moral matters.


4.2 The Conditions of Blameworthiness

What are the conditions of blameworthiness? In particular, does blameworthiness require a control condition? It is often assumed that we can only be blameworthy for that over which we have control. But this general assumption is often in conflict with our intuitions about specific cases. In particular, we typically blame agents when they act on false moral beliefs. We do not have direct control over what we believe: belief formation is not inevitably something we do, it is often something that happens in us.  Given the control condition, we can be indirectly responsible for our ignorance, but only if the ignorance can be traced back to a situation in which we consciously chose, or consciously omitted, to do something that led to our ignorance. Such instances may be very rare. So if blameworthiness requires control, very few people will be blameworthy. In this project the plausibility of this line of reasoning will be investigated. In particular, we will investigate how the control requirement depends on which conception of blameworthiness we adopt. If being blameworthy entails that the agent deserves to be sanctioned, the control condition will gain plausibility; if being blameworthy does not entail any harm to the wrongdoer the control condition will have far less appeal. We will also investigate whether two different conceptions of blameworthiness can exist side by side, in which case there will be one sense in which moral ignorance excuses, and one sense in which it does not.


4.3 Normative Reasons and Blameworthiness

What is the connection between normative reasons and blameworthiness? Internalists about reasons typically accept that we can rely on normative reasons to act contrary to morality. If so, can agents be blameworthy for acting according to their reasons?


4.4 Forgiveness

What is forgiveness and how is it possible? Forgiveness becomes an issue when an agent has wronged a victim and is blameworthy. We shall continue exploring questions relating to forgiveness and related issues. If the agent is blameworthy, resentment towards her is appropriate for the victim. Yet forgiveness plausibly involves the victim’s overcoming of resentment. This raises difficult questions about how this revision of attitude is possible without excusing the wrongdoer. What kind of changes do the wrongdoer and the victim go through in a process of forgiveness, and how can we account for these changes without annihilating the possibility of genuine forgiveness, that is, without reducing it either to condoning (the victim’s not taking offence) or excusing (the victim’s denial of the wrongdoer’s blameworthiness).

Published May 12, 2016 11:36 AM - Last modified May 12, 2016 11:36 AM