Building Better Beings A Theory of Moral Responsibility

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-02-08
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Building Better Beings presents a new theory of moral responsibility. Beginning with a discussion of ordinary convictions about responsibility and free will and their implications for a philosophical theory, Manuel Vargas argues that no theory can do justice to all the things we want from atheory of free will and moral responsibility. He goes on to show how we can nevertheless justify our responsibility practices and provide a normatively and naturalistically adequate account of responsible agency, blame, and desert. Three ideas are central to Vargas' account: the agency cultivation model, circumstantialism about powers, and revisionism about responsibility and free will. On Vargas' account, responsibility norms and practices are justified by their effects. In particular, the agency cultivation model holds thatresponsibility practices help mold us into creatures that respond to moral considerations. Moreover, the abilities that matter for responsibility and free will are not metaphysically prior features of agents in isolation from social contexts. Instead, they are functions of both agents and theirnormatively structured contexts. This is the idea of circumstantialism about the powers required for responsibility. Third, Vargas argues that an adequate theory of responsibility will be revisionist, or at odds with important strands of ordinary convictions about free will and moral responsibility. Building Better Beings providesa compelling and state-of-the-art defense of moral responsibility in the face of growing philosophical and scientific skepticism about free will and moral responsibility.

Author Biography

Manuel Vargas is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of San Francisco. His principal areas of research include responsibility, moral psychology, and Latin American philosophy. He received his joint-PhD in philosophy from Stanford University. He is the co-author of Four Views on Free Will (Blackwell, 2007) with John Fischer, Robert Kane, and Derk Pereboom, and co-editor of Rational and Social Agency: On Themes in the Philosophy of Michael Bratman (OUP, forthcoming) with Gideon Yaffe.

Table of Contents

Building Blocks
Folk Convictions
Doubts About Libertarianism
Nihilism and Revisionism
Building a Better Theory
A Theory of Moral Responsibility
The Primacy of Reasons
Justifying the Practice
Responsible Agency
Blame and Desert
History and Manipulation
Some Conclusions
Appendix: Activity and Origination
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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