Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility

ISBN : 9780199684762

Dana Kay Nelkin
208 Pages
140 x 216 mm
Pub date
Aug 2013
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Dana Kay Nelkin presents a simple and natural account of freedom and moral responsibility which responds to the great variety of challenges to the idea that we are free and responsible, before ultimately reaffirming our conception of ourselves as agents. Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility begins with a defense of the rational abilities view, according to which one is responsible for an action if and only if one acts with the ability to recognize and act for good reasons. The view is compatibilist?that is, on the view defended, responsibility is compatible with determinism?and one of its striking features is a certain asymmetry: it requires the ability to do otherwise for responsibility when actions are blameworthy, but not when they are praiseworthy. In defending and elaborating the view, Nelkin questions long-held assumptions such as those concerning the relation between fairness and blame and the nature of so-called reactive attitudes such as resentment and forgiveness. Her argument not only fits with a metaphysical picture of causation?agent-causation?often assumed to be available only to incompatibilist accounts, but receives positive support from the intuitively appealing Ought Implies Can Principle, and establishes a new interpretation of freedom and moral responsibility that dovetails with a compelling account of our inescapable commitments as rational agents.


1. A Rational Abilities View of Responsibility
2. Deep Assessment and Good Action
3. Abilities
4. A Compatibilist Account of Agent Causation
5. A Rationale for the Rational Abilities View: Praise, Blame, and the Ought Implies Can Principle
6. Deliberation and Alternatives
7. The Sense of Freedom, or Acting under the Idea of Freedom
Concluding Thoughts

About the author: 

Dana Kay Nelkin is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. She received her PhD from UCLA, and her BA from the University of Texas. She is the author of a series of articles on freedom and responsibility, as well as on other topics, including self-deception and the lottery paradox about the nature of rationality. She is currently exploring the relationships between such philosophical questions and a variety of legal issues concerning criminal responsibility as well as psychological research on attitudes that appear to presuppose attributions of responsibility. She is an affiliated scholar with the University of San Diego Law and Philosophy Institute, a member of an interdisciplinary collaboration on the topic of forgiveness, and a member of the Human Research Protections Board at UCSD.

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