My name is Brian Parks, I’ve been posting sporadically here on GFP for a few months now.
Anyway, I’ve written a paper on moral responsibility (taking the pessimist anti stance) with some ideas that I’d like to introduce to the group. I was hoping that you all might be so kind as to read the paper (or just briefly skim parts of it) and share reactions/comments/criticisms. Maybe we can get a discussion going. I’m in a different field, so I haven’t had the opportunity to bounce any of the ideas off of philosophers yet.
Here is the abstract to the paper (the PDF link is at the end of this post):
In this paper, I defend The Basic Argument, Galen Strawson’s argument that ultimate moral responsibility is impossible. I begin by recasting the argument into a rigorous form that resolves a minor problem associated with the original version. I then support the argument with a thought experiment—called the ‘self-switching’ scenario—in which I ask the reader to imagine switching places with another human being and making decisions from inside that human being’s psychological perspective. Appealing to Rawlsian principles, I argue that we cannot reasonably assert that another human being genuinely deserves punishment for a decision that we ourselves do not deserve unless our assertion passes the ‘self-switching’ test: that is, unless there is some relevant sense in which the decision would have turned out differently if we were to have made it under identical internal and external circumstances. I conclude that because the ‘self-switching’ test cannot be satisfied on any account of human agency, that we cannot reasonably assert that any individual genuinely deserves any punishment. I end the paper by addressing the criticisms of Fischer and Ravizza, Clarke, and Bernstein.
Here are some quick highlights not mentioned in the abstract that you all might find interesting/though-provoking: