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Rehabilitating the Consequentialist View of Moral Responsibility

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Author: Lerner, Adam Jared
Advisor: Haug, Matthew C.
Committee Members: Tognazzini, Neal; Kirkpatrick, Lee A., 1958-
Issued Date: 7/17/2012
Subjects: Consequentialism
Moral responsibility
Moral psychology
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/16749
Description: In this thesis, I defend a consequentialist view of moral responsibility, according to which justifiably (and permissibly) holding people morally responsible in a way that makes them suffer (by outwardly blaming them, punishing them, and so forth) requires—and only requires—that there is no alternative available that would produce better overall consequences than holding them morally responsible, where the suffering of wrongdoers is just as bad a consequence as the suffering of anyone else (all else being equal). In chapter 1, I argue that this type of view avoids a crucial objection to previous versions of consequentialism about moral responsibility. In chapter 2, I develop the view further and defend it against the objection that it intuitively seems as though it is at least sometimes permissible to blame and punish guilty people even when doing so would fail to maximize beneficial consequences. This defense primarily takes the form of an error theory for that intuition. Drawing upon a wide variety of empirical work, I argue that we have reason to doubt that the psychological mechanisms that generate that intuition are accurately representing the states of affairs to which that intuition is a response, and that we should therefore doubt the reliability of that intuition. In chapter 3, I extend this error theory to account for another intuitive objection to consequentialism: that it always seems wrong to punish the innocent or to punish the guilty disproportionately relative to their crime, even when doing so would maximize beneficial consequences. In chapter 4, I argue against practical objections to consequentialism about moral responsibility, including the claims that it is psychologically impracticable, that it requires the solution of an apparently insurmountable collective action problem, and that any ways of dealing with these first two problems would be fundamentally unfair. Chapter 5 summarizes and concludes.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy

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