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Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility

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  • Author(s)Nelkin, Dana Kay
  • Edition
  • Published19th May 2011
  • PublisherOxford University Press UK
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Dana Kay Nelkin presents a simple and natural account of freedom and moral responsibility which responds to the great variety of challenges to the idea that we are free and responsible, before ultimately reaffirming our conception of ourselves as agents. Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility begins with a defense of the rational abilities view, according to which one is responsible for an action if and only if one acts with the ability to recognize
and act for good reasons. The view is compatibilist -- that is, on the view defended, responsibility is compatible with determinism -- and one of its striking features is a certain asymmetry: it requires the
ability to do otherwise for responsibility when actions are praiseworthy, but not when they are blameworthy. In defending and elaborating the view, Nelkin questions long-held assumptions such as those concerning the relation between fairness and blame and the nature of so-called reactive attitudes such as resentment and forgiveness. Her argument not only fits with a metaphysical picture of causation -- agent-causation -- often assumed to be available only to incompatibilist accounts, but
receives positive support from the intuitively appealing Ought Implies Can Principle, and establishes a new interpretation of freedom and moral responsibility that dovetails with a compelling account of our
inescapable commitments as rational agents.
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