Minimal Optimism: Reading P. F. Strawson on Responsibility

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Sammanfattning

Peter Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ (1962) has reoriented the way moral philosophers think about responsibility. There is a general sense that Strawson’s approach holds the promise that we may move beyond the traditional discussion of free will in recognition of the fact that whether determinism is true is irrelevant for whether we are responsible beings. This is Strawson’s Promise. This thesis sets itself to investigate how we may make good on this promise.

In the first part of this thesis, three existent ways of making good on Strawson’s Promise are considered: Justin Coates’s transcendental argument against responsibility scepticism, Pamela Hieronymi’s Statistical Reading of “the central argument”, and the Reversal Move, on two different articulations. For different reasons, neither is found adequate for the task.

In the second part of this thesis, the case is made that we may make good on Strawson’s Promise if we replace the Standard Reading of Strawson’s Inescapability Claim—that we are naturally and inescapably committed to the concept of responsibility—with the Minimal Optimist Reading. Distinguishing between the concept of responsibility in its non-historical form and any particular conception of responsibility, Minimal Optimism is the view that we are inescapably committed to the concept of responsibility, but not so to any particular conception of responsibility. The concept of responsibility is both conceptually necessary and practically necessary. Unlike other framework commitments, however, the concept of responsibility is not essential to any experience which we can make truly intelligible to ourselves as such. In the case of responsibility, the practical necessity of the concept of responsibility is therefore in a sense more basic. A kind of naturalistic explanation—a pragmatic genealogy—is presented as supplementing Strawson’s approach. This supports the Inescapability Claim by showing that for beings like us, already on the assumption only of maximally generic needs and situations, it is practically necessary that we have some conception of responsibility. Seeing that the concept of responsibility is inescapable in the sense that it is indispensable, we are vindicated in living by the concept. The truth of determinism is relevant neither for whether we have a practical need for the concept of responsibility nor for the concept of responsibility that follows simply from the relevant needs and situations.

The question whether we are responsible is not a question for the Minimal Optimist. In this sense, we may move beyond the traditional discussion regarding free will. Strawson’s relaxed attitude to responsibility is grounded in a recognition of the fact that the concept of responsibility is indispensable for beings like us. This, however, does not straightforwardly imply any optimism about our particular conception of responsibility. Towards the end, we consider some issues regarding what Minimal Optimism implies about our particular conception of responsibility.
Originalspråkengelska
KvalifikationDoktor
Tilldelande institution
  • Filosofiska institutionen
Handledare
  • Talbert, Matthew, handledare
  • Russell, Paul, Biträdande handledare
  • Queloz, Matthieu, Biträdande handledare, Extern person
Tilldelningsdatum2024 apr. 6
UtgivningsortLund
Förlag
ISBN (tryckt)978-91-89874-21-3
ISBN (elektroniskt)978-91-89874-22-0
StatusPublished - 2024 apr. 6

Bibliografisk information

Defence details
Date: 2024-04-06
Time: 11:00
Place: LUX C126
External reviewer
Name: De Mesel, Benjamin
Title: Assistant Professor
Affiliation: KU Leuven
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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Filosofi

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