Malmgren, A. (2019): On fundamental responsibility

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author = {Malmgren, Anna‐Sara},
title = {On fundamental responsibility},
shorttitle = {On fundamental responsibility},
journal = {Philosophical Issues},
volume = {29},
number = {1},
pages = {198–213},
year = {2019},
abstract = {},
file = {~/Library/Mobile Documents/iCloud~com~sonnysoftware~bot/Documents/be-library/malmgren2019_On_Fundamental_Responsibility.pdf},
doi = {10.1111/phis.12148},
url = {},
langid = {},
beref = {58929},
location = {},
keywords = {rationality; rational agency; reasons; responsibility; blame}}

Useful and important paper. It is especially helpful in engaging with Hieronymi’s work on control.

Malmgren takes rationally determinable conditions (to use Neta’s terminology) as those over which one has ‘direct deliberative leverage’ in a manner that requires the capacity for introspection and self-consciousness.

Deliberation is characterized as a practical activity concerning what to believe or do (p. 201)

It involves the manipulation of at least some propositional attitudes—at a minimum: beliefs, suppositions or hypotheses about the facts or considerations which the agent takes to indicate that something is true or likely, or a good thing to do. And it requires an at least rudimentary ability to respond to those considerations in ways that constitute attempts to heed the fundamental norms that govern the deliberative pursuit at hand. (201)

We thus have ‘deliberative leverage’ when our attitudes stand in the right relation to deliberation.

what direct leverage comes to is the ability to bring about a preferred psychological outcome—an outcome that sometimes amounts to a change—simply by engaging in deliberation. (Where the ‘preferred’ outcome is just the outcome that corresponds to one’s answer to the deliberative question.) Some but not all mental states are normal unmediated results, or end-points, of deliberation—those that are, and only those, we have direct leverage over. This may sound flat-footed, but it’s not ad hoc. The idea is that it’s consequent on, or even part of, the distinctive functional role of certain attitudes that the kind of information-processing that constitutes deliberation is a potential partial proximate cause of states of that type (p. 202)

This raises an obvious question about attitudes or acts that are not the result of deliberation, eg. the judgment or the belief (depending on one’s terms or ontology) that Jane is wearing a red shirt, as the outcome of one’s current visual experience of Jane. Malmgren allows for this, but seems to think that any RDC is such that while it may not actually be the result of deliberation, is such that it essentially could be the result of deliberation.

Many beliefs and intentions—even those of mature sophisticated agents with time on their hands—aren’t generated through deliberation (as glossed above, and in further detail shortly). And it would be impossible for them all to be, on pain of another regress. But any one of our beliefs or intentions can be (or could have been) deliberately generated, at least in principle. Moreover, any one of them can be adjusted later—or strictly speaking terminated and replaced—through subsequent deliberation. Not so our metabolic and deep-seated affective states, visual and auditory experiences, states of other people, etc. (‘At least in principle’ is an unsatisfying place-holder, but some such hedge is needed to accommodate the various specific reasons, mundane and pathological, why deliberation may fail to occur.) (p. 202)

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