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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 7 TT11

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 7 TT11
Start Date 13th Jun 2011 4:30pm
End Date 13th Jun 2011 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA) 'Reflection and Responsibility' to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


A common line of thought claims that we are responsible for ourselves and our actions, while less sophisticated creatures are not, because we, and not they, are self-aware. Our self-awareness, it is thought, provides us with a kind of control over ourselves that they lack: we can reflect upon our thoughts and actions and so ensure that they are as we would have them to be. Thus, our capacity for reflection provides us with the control over ourselves that grounds our responsibility. I will argue that this thought is subtly, but badly, confused. It models the control that grounds our responsibility on the control we exercise over ordinary objects and over our own voluntary actions: we represent to ourselves what to do or how to change things, and then bring about that which we represent. But, I argue, we cannot use this model to explain our responsibility for ourselves and our actions: if there is a question about why or how we are responsible for ourselves and our actions, it cannot be answered by appeal to a sophisticated, self-directed action. There must be some more fundamental account of how or why we are responsible. I will replace the usual account with a novel but natural view: responsible mental activity can be modeled, not as an ordinary action, but as the settling of a question. This requires abandoning the tempting but troublesome thought that responsible activity involves discretion and awareness—which, I argue, we must abandon in any case.

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