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01/14/2015

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I can see some skeptic answering: no, we are NEVER morally responsible so it does not come in degrees. But, for those skeptics who adopt a forward-looking account I wonder, do such accounts admit of degrees?

Great questions Justin. We seem to have diametrically opposed intuitions about these matters, since I find it entirely natural to think and talk in terms of degrees of (moral) responsibility, which is consistent with thinking that there is a threshold that must be crossed for an agent to be MR for an action or outcome. My views about MR in this regard correlate with (perhaps cause or are caused by) my views about free will, which I think of as a set of capacities (for the sort of control over actions that allows MR) that agents can possess to varying degrees and have varying degrees of opportunities to exercise. That's a lot of degree talk! I will think more about how to justify my theories and intuitions, since that's what you are looking for.

In the meantime, I (and you) need to read this paper by Dana Nelkin in Nous: Difficulty and Degrees of Moral Praiseworthiness and Blameworthiness. She also posted on the topic when she was Featured Author here.

Thanks for the reference, Eddie! I'll have to check out what she said during her FA stint and I'll be sure to dig into the NOUS piece. See, this post is already paying dividends. I know Coates posted on this during his stint but I was unaware that Nelkin did as well.

Quick question: you say that degrees of responsibility is consistent with a threshold that must be crossed for an agent to be MR. How would this work? Is it that you are less morally responsible until you hit the threshold? Or, is it that once you hit the threshold that's when degree talk kicks in?

Justin,

Do you think control comes in degrees? For instance, little league pitchers have less control over their pitches than major league pitches (with high school, college, and minor league players filling in the gaps). To the extent that someone thinks moral responsibility depends at least in part on control and control comes in degrees, then it would be natural for that person to think responsibility comes in degrees. The same line of reasoning is going to come naturally to someone who focuses on capacities (as Eddy points out). Given the central role that capacities play in many accounts of responsibility (especially the capacity for practical reasoning and self-control), the ubiquity of talk about degrees isn't surprising.

There's another important context wherein there is an assumption that responsibility comes in degrees--namely, the criminal law. The very notions of aggravating and mitigating circumstances suggest something in between completely responsible/deserving and completely non-responsible/non-deserving. If I did something bad merely recklessly I am less culpable than if I did it purposely. Even a skeptic like me wants to preserve that distinction somehow. So, while I would prefer not to talk in terms of free will and desert, I am nevertheless happy to talk about it making sense to punish some criminals more than others based on whether there were aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

As you know, Justin, this question has plagued me for years. My views were influenced by what Fischer says in *My Way*: "Moral responsibility [...] is more abstract than praiseworthiness or blameworthiness: moral responsibility is, as it were, the “gateway” to moral praiseworthiness, blameworthiness, resentment, indignation, respect, gratitude, and so forth. Someone who is morally responsible is an apt candidate for moral judgments and ascriptions of moral properties" (2006, p. 33).

I call such a view of moral responsibility a “gateway view.” On this approach, being morally responsible for conduct (or whatever) is to meet a set of sufficient conditions that opens one up to certain kinds of warranted moral evaluations and practices. It is a “gateway” to entry into the “game” of being held responsible for what one has done. And just like you cannot be “more” or “less” in a game of basketball, you cannot be more or less morally responsible for your actions. You are either morally responsible for an action or you are not. However, once you are in the game, however, you can be worthy of more or less (or different kinds) of blame (or praise) for what you do while you are in the game. This is one way to explain why blameworthiness, but not responsibility comes in degrees: blameworthiness concerns the kinds of responses that are appropriate to an agent for doing wrong, whereas responsibility is a property that agent may have, the possession of which permits her to be subject to a vast array of responses, including blame, praise, and request for justification, among others.

Oops, the Fischer reference is actually (2006, p. 233).

Hi, Thomas. As always, thanks for your response.

I do think control comes in degrees. But just because control (and knowledge) comes in degrees it wouldn't follow that moral responsibility does? Would it? I mean as soon as you reach a certain level of control you have met the condition. More control only entails that it might have been easier or harder to refrain from say A'ing but not more or less morally responsible, at least not necessarily.

It's like making hot chocolate (as I just did for my boys). You can have more or less milk and more or less chocolate but as soon as you reach the threshold of each you have hot chocolate. A cup with a bit more chocolate wouldn't make it more like hot chocolate. Once it's hot chocolate it's hot chocolate and I can drink it as such.

As I see it, it would make more sense to talk about overt blame coming in degrees. For one to be overtly blamed (justifiably of course) one condition is that the agent is morally responsible for the wrongdoing. But, like I said in the post, to say that the agent is more morally responsible seems odd, at least a bit more odd than the two-sentence sketch I just gave.

Even in the criminal law it's not clear that criminal responsibility comes in degrees, though it may, I'll have to think further. I'm inclined to say that you can be responsible for more stuff but that doesn't make you more criminally responsible. Unless by *more* we are thinking more punishment is deserved or warranted. It almost seems like we employ degree talk to be quick and fast. But every scenario that I can think of can be cashed out in binary terms and when we do so in those terms it makes things easier to wrap my head around.

Thanks for the comment Brandon.

I like the basketball example, it's a really nice way of describing it. Michael's conversational model of MR (which I quite like) would work well with it too. To enter the conversation you must meet certain conditions, one of which is to be morally responsible. Once in the conversation it will depend on how it goes and your relation to the agent involved. So, MR gets you in the door once you've met the conditions and the conversation takes place from there.

As an aside, I started thinking about this when discussing the moral responsiblity of psychopaths. Ish kept pressing me on why I thought they were morally responsible and kept asking "to the same degree though"? I ended up questioning his talk of degrees and Ish said that the point was interesting. Given that Ish rarely found anything I said interesting in my first year of grad school I decided to think about this a bit deeper. Here I am 4 years later asking similar questions. I'm glad that folks (Vargas, Nelkin, and others) are starting to work on this. I think that a conversation about degrees is fruitful for us to get a better handle on the nature of moral responsibility.

Clearly one reason people in general think of degrees of responsibility is that they are vaguely aware of the difference of degrees of crimes. They typically also erroneously think that degrees of crimes are somehow action-based as a criterion of discrimination--some things done are more heinous than others. And no doubt that may be a legitimate issue is some contexts of regarding actions in some axiological way. But the traditional legal basis of degrees of crimes is a primary function of the nature of intent, and not the nature of an action. (Thus the basis for the billboard that Tamler posted.) Premeditation versus in-the-heat-of-the-moment intent versus aggravated intent, etc. establishes how seriously we may brand something more or less blameworthy in terms of punishment (death versus life in prison for first- as against second-degree murder respectively in some jurisdictions, e.g.). There are no direct correlations here about degrees of FW unless one takes the quality-of-will approach (as Levy calls it) of what the term means with respect to intent. But at least some law traditions thus recognize that states of mind differ qualitatively with respect to what degree of punishment is appropriate. Of course I endorse none of this; just sayin'.

Can your chocolate-milk-loving boys do math? If they are younger than 3, I'd say they probably haven't crossed the threshold such that they count as being able to do math, but it may be a verbal or pragmatic distinction, e.g., whether we count counting as being able to do math or whether you have to be able at least to add numbers.

My kids are 7, 10, and 13 and I think they can each do math but to varying degrees. They've each crossed the threshold but the older ones have greater degrees of math abilities. They can do more sorts of math problems and do the same sorts (e.g., multiplication) more efficiently and accurately. They have different capacities for doing math, which I'm pretty certain are explained by differences in the relevant processes in their brains due to different amount of development and learning (including practice). Those neuropsychological differences may have some interesting thresholds but probably have a pretty smooth progression.

So, once we pick out the relevant behaviors involved in doing math, we set a threshold for what counts and we can study the underlying capacities. Those same (precursor) capacities likely come in degrees below the threshold, but we probably won't be that interested in that (unless we're looking at the precursor capacities in non-human primates or infants, etc.). Above the threshold we'll be more interested in the degrees to which people possess the capacities (e.g., when we make decisions about grades and hiring of engineers and such).

In different situations, the same person or different persons with (roughly) the same math capacities will have varying degrees of opportunity to successfully exercise their capacities. Internal situations like weariness or external situations like distracting noises will diminish one's opportunities (adderall might enhance them by increasing focused attention). Sometimes one will have no opportunity at all and be below that relevant threshold. (I certainly don't think determinism rules out opportunities to exercise capacities one fails to exercise or fails to exercise successfully!)

OK, now we just fill in the analogy for the capacities relevant to being morally responsible, such as capacities to imagine various relevant alternatives for action (including morally relevant ones), to rationally assess them, to select well, to control one's action in accord with one's choice, etc. Well, maybe it won't be as easy as I'm suggesting, but hopefully it makes some sense.

(Notice the lurking normative criteria for possessing and exercising capacities for both math and moral responsibility; I think that's a feature not a bug, and one that is also graded...)

Hi Justin,

I think the question you present is a good one, and I have a few areas that you might want to explore when you wonder whether moral responsibility comes in degrees or not. From what I gather, there is a debate raging in cognitive linguistics about different theories of categorization. The standard approach of understanding categories and concepts, and one familiar to analytic philosophers, has often been a definitional approach. According to this approach, when we do philosophy, and wonder about a concept, we inquire about what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for certain philosophical notions like knowledge, responsibility, love, and other heady concepts. According to this approach, there are certain conditions you have to meet to be in love, have knowledge, or be morally responsible. If you fail to meet these conditions, you no longer fit the definition, and thus we would not categorize you a particular way (ie. you might not know, might not be in love, or might fail to be morally responsible). This seems to be the approach you wonder about when it comes to moral responsibility: there are certain conditions you meet to be morally responsible, and if you fail to meet these conditions, you are not morally responsible. But this is not the only categorization theory in town, and some cognitive linguists suggest that many categories don't work this way. So, these cognitive theorists seriously question the standard definitional model employed by philosophers.

Enter Prototype Theory, a theory presented and defended by Eleanor Rosch, George Lakoff, Ronald Langacker and others. According to this theory categories don't work in the way standard definitional models suggest they do. Categories are often graded: so, for instance, a robin might be a more prototypical bird than a penguin is. There really are no essential features or "conditions" an object needs to have to be a bird. A prototype theorist would think it's just wrong to think about categories and concepts the way a standard definitional theorist suggests we should. Or consider the category "furniture"; we might think different objects fit this category better than others (ie. a chair might fit the category furniture better than a rug would). According to prototype theory, many of the categories we employ to understand the world around us are graded like this. Perhaps when a theorist suggests that moral responsibility comes in degrees, they are referencing the idea that some people are prototypically more responsible than others. And perhaps the category of moral responsibility -when I say that S is morally responsible- is graded, like the way in which a prototype theorist suggests other categories are. So, perhaps in the end, we might think of the debate we are considering coalesces around which theory of categories and concepts we think appropriate when talking about moral responsibility: a standard and classical definitional model, or a prototype model.

Interesting post, Justin. I haven't read all the work you've cited (and that others have cited in their comments) - thanks for these references - but I've long held that responsibility comes in degrees, just on the grounds that _ability_ does. So Eddie's reference to capacities seems right to me. I was thinking of the ability to do otherwise, but there's a reference to ability in many of the views that don't require alternate possibilities but do require the ability to respond to reasons or to control one's impulses. Besides the developmental variations in Eddie's math example, those of us whose math ability is fully developed, or as developed as it ever will be, can differ in degree of math ability -- which does seem to be tied to degree of difficulty (how hard it is for a given person to solve a certain math problem), though that's not to say that difficulty is the only relevant consideration (there's also, e.g., the question of which problems one can solve at all). In any case, the view seems to be compatible with declining to identify responsibility with blameworthiness or praiseworthiness, which is Scanlon's position as well as Fischer's. A certain degree of impulse control or etc. is needed to make one worthy of _some_ attitude of moral assessment - before one raises the question of which attitude it warrants, and in what degree.

It also occurs to me that my own intuitions concern degree of responsibility _for_ some particular act or omission -- as opposed to the degree to which someone is a responsible agent (full-stop). Though Eddie's examples bear on the latter, it's the one that's more clearly a "gateway" notion, not to be identified with degree of praiseworthiness or blameworthiness.

Like Eddy, I have the opposite intuition--and not only about my conception of moral responsibility but also about how I imagine most non-philosophers regard it. In response to Thomas, you say that "even in the criminal law it's not clear that criminal responsibility comes in degrees." Can you elaborate? It seems clear to me. A large percentage of mitigating factors concern how much control the person has over their actions. The sometimes silly legal debate over the culpability of teenagers (because of the neuroscience on their brains) seems premised on the idea that MR can come in degrees, no?

I also have a separate meta-question. What are the legitimate ways of answering the title question of your post? If I'm right that most reflective non-philosophers (along with many philosophers) see MR as a degree concept, does that mean that MR comes in degrees? Or could the vast majority of people be mistaken? What evidence could there be that they are?

(Note: I think skeptics can still regard MR as a degree concept, but hold that the conditions are never satisfied for attributing even the tiniest degree of MR. That's the kind of MR skeptic I used to be....)

Thanks to everyone for the comments and questions. And thanks for your patience with regards to my responses. I have a long meeting and some teaching today but will be responding to all (individually) this evening.

Suffice to say for now that I think Eddie's math example is too vague, or, maybe it would be better to say that his approach is too coarse grained an approach when discussing MR. Math has too many moving parts. Maybe we can use addition instead? It might be better to ask if my 2 year old (Benjamin) can add and then ask if my 11 year old (Jordan) can add. So, when assessing if one can add I would say that both my boys can add. Now, to say that my 11 yr old can add to a higher degree would be helpful only if we cared about adding really high numbers. But, when evaluating if Jordan and Benji can add 1+1 it seems that Jordan's ability to add larger numbers doesn't come into play when evaluating if he can add 1+1. Both my boys can add 1+1, Jordan's expanded abilities do not make him more able to add 1+1, at least that's my intuition. So, even if one thinks that abilities come in degrees (which I do), it wouldn't follow that someone with more of an ability becomes more responible for doing some act that requires far less ability, would it? And again, what would it mean to be more morally responsible in this way? I think that the course-grained way of spelling out MR is what gives rise to degree talk but once we get specific about a particular act we start to see, at least I do, that the degree talk doesn't hold, at least it need not.

I will be sure to get to the specific questions (raised by Eddie, Tamler, Ray, and Pat)later this evening. Thanks again for the great comments! I think I'll post next about mental illness and MR, as I have some questions that are related to this thread but that might be best explained in it's own thread.

I am curious: when one is more (or less) morally responsible for some bit of conduct, what is the thing that one has more (or less) of?

I suspect that claims about “degrees of moral responsibility” are really just veiled claims of one or more of the following types:

1. S is morally responsible for more (or less) things.
2. S is morally responsible for a greater (or lesser) wrong (or right).
3. S is causally responsible for more (or less) things.
4. S is worthy of different kinds of reactive attitudes and/or expressions of those attitudes that can be described as coming in degrees of severity.
5. S has heightened (or reduced) moral agency.

Because the folk don't typically make all these distinctions, I suspect that their degree talk is just shorthand. So for those degree theorists, what is it that one gets more of when one is more MR for conduct? Is the idea that MR is a *function* of all these other things, so when you ramp up the other stuff, you get more MR?

I hesitate to jump into this discussion: I feel a bit like an atheist crashing a College of Cardinals discussion concerning the holy trinity. But since Thomas plunged in, I am sufficiently emboldened to at least ask a question: Is it really the case that philosophers generally believe there are degrees of MR? I knew that Al does, but I had always imagined that Al was a bit heterodox on that issue (and that he had perhaps spread his heretical views around Tallahassee, thus infecting Eddy). But I was under the impression that most philosophers regard MR as all or none: isn’t that the point of the threshold/plateau models of moral responsibility? Once you make it to the plateau, you are morally responsible, even if you are not as bright, have less self-control, suffer some degree of depression, not as strong in self-efficacy, etc. Of course there are excusing conditions, but they don’t give degrees of MR; rather, if you are coerced, drugged, act in nonculpable ignorance (the stage hand substitutes a real gun for the usual stage prop), etc. then you are not responsible in that instance (in the law, you could offer an affirmative defense that would exempt your action from MR). To look at the math example, Dan Dennett explicitly wants to keep the “plateau” of MR so low that minimal competency qualifies you for MR: it is not a high level capacity, but a very minimal standard: like very simple addition, in Eddy’s case. Of course some may be BETTER at exercising MR, but that doesn’t make them MORE MR. (And like Brandon’s game model, Dennett makes accepting MR a condition of playing the game; and for that, you are in or out, no partial playing.) And for Strawson, unless you qualify for objective attitudes, you are MR. C. A. Campbell gives the example of the “chronic tippler” who is almost certain to become intoxicated, and would require special exertion of will power to overcome temptation, but still holds him fully morally responsible. The MITIGATING factors don’t make you less MR, but instead may mitigate the harshness of our response or treatment. And isn’t that the way the courts proceed? If you do not qualify as severely incapacitated, you are MR, and all the situational and childhood factors are irrelevant; if you are found guilty, we may consider mitigating factors in assigning punishment (in a capital case, there may be a separate penalty phase; but that is strictly to determine degree of punishment, not degree of MR). My impression had been that when philosophical believers in MR consider mitigating factors, they are NOT mitigating MR: that’s all or nothing. Isn’t that why Scanlon separates MR from blame? But of course I tend to see MR as analogous to the holy trinity, so it is not surprising that I am confused. But do most philosophical believers really see MR as coming in degrees?

I have similar questions to those of Bruce.

But here's another question. Ordinary usage is kind of all over the place, and why would we care about capturing it anyway? (Well, that opens a can of worms...) My question here is why it matters whether we come down on one side or another here. Perhaps it does matter--if there is some kind of fact of the matter about whether moral responsibility admits of degrees or is all-or-nothing. But why think there is a fact of the matter? Why not say the following?

Some conceptualize moral responsibility as all-or-nothing (Scanlon, Fischer, et. al.), and some conceptualize it as admitting of degrees (Mele, Coates/Swenson, et al). Those in the first camp think that praiseworthiness/blameworthiness (and related pheonomena) do admit of degrees, but not moral responsibility itself. Those in the second camp think that both praiseworthiness/blameworthiness (and related phenomena) and moral responsibility itself admit of degrees. But both camps can make substantively the same claims, even if in slightly different language. Given this, why does it matter which side we come down on? What is at stake?

I have often thought that, although I have contended that moral responsibility is all-or-nothing, I could just as easily adopt the alternative view. Perhaps one would care a lot more about this if one had a methodology which emphasized what the folk actually think--but I don't place that much weight on what the folk think or actual usage in this context. Perhaps this differentiates theorists such as Scanlon and me from others (perhaps such as Al Mele), but I'm not sure.

Anyway, what is at stake? (I'm reminded also of debates about event or act individuation. Given that one can make the same substantive claims, mutatis mutandus, on the various plausible approaches to individuation, why does it really matter? By the way, action theory has moved away from a focus on the issue of individuation, perhaps for this sort of reason.)

Ray, thanks for the references. I'm reminded of some of the work that Edouard Machery is doing on "concepts". Also, I wonder how the debate that you bring up would affect what Tamler says about the folk. Anyway, I appreciate you chiming in.

Brandon, not surprisingly, I agree with your account that when one appeals to degrees they are really appealing to something like your 1-5. And, as I asked just prior to your comment (at 1:24) I'm not sure how to make sense of this "more" responsible talk. I was hoping my 1+1 example would bring this to light. What would it mean for my 11-year-old to be more responsible than my 2-year-old for adding 1+1? Just because my 11-year-old has the ability to add 1235+8909876, it doesn't follow that he is more responsible when thinking about the particular case of adding 1+1. And if it does what does it mean to say he's more responsible in cases of adding single digits just because he can add further digits?

Pat, thanks for your comments!

I think my comments to Brandon also apply to what you say as well so I'd be curious to hear more as to why you think degree talk is appropriate in such an example, and what the degree talk adds to the discussion when it seems that I can account for these cases without appealing to degrees of moral responsibility.

Also, thanks for specifying things in your second comment because I think we can get to the root of the difference in our intuitions about making sense of degree talk if we speak of specific acts or omissions. So that clarity is key, or so I think, and that is what I was trying to suggest to Eddie at (1:24).

Tamler, thanks for your response. I've been wrestling with your work a bit in my diss (and the reasons for your transition away from your initial position) so your insight is very helpful to me and is much appreciated.

You say: "Can you elaborate? It seems clear to me. A large percentage of mitigating factors concern how much control the person has over their actions. The sometimes silly legal debate over the culpability of teenagers (because of the neuroscience on their brains) seems premised on the idea that MR can come in degrees, no?"

LIke I said to Thomas, I'm not certain that degree talk doesn't make sense in the criminal responsibility context. I've only thought about this long and hard re: moral responsibility. That said, I think we can talk about criminal responsibility in binary terms rather than degree terms. Let me elaborate a bit.

When degree talk is invoked in the criminal context it seems that we are discussing the degree of harm that one caused or the degree of punishment that we should shell out. But, like the MR analogue, I don't know how to make sense of more criminally responsible. The mitigating factors don't apply to one's guilt, they apply to one's punishment, right? If two people commit a crime and one is less criminally responsible than the other we are appealing to their specific role, or, at least it doesn't seem crazy to assume this. So, it's not so much ability based as it is a way of describing one's specific role in the crime, at least it sounds that way to me. For instance, the tsarnaev brothers are both criminally responsible for the Boston bombings. Each is equally criminally responsible for whatever their role was. Now, one brother might be c-responsible for planning the attack and the other might be c-responsible for following through. But each is criminally responsible for whatever role they played. We might think that following through is worse than planning and we might say on those grounds that one brother is more criminally responsible than the other but that's not an appeal to ability, is it? It seems that the degree talk tracks something different than responsibility proper. It might be that there is a salient difference between the MR and CR where it would make more sense to utilize the degree talk in the latter, but I'm not seeing why it's needed, or even what it is tracking in the former. The suggestion seems to be ability but I'm not seeing it.

Next you ask: "I also have a separate meta-question. What are the legitimate ways of answering the title question of your post? If I'm right that most reflective non-philosophers (along with many philosophers) see MR as a degree concept, does that mean that MR comes in degrees? Or could the vast majority of people be mistaken? What evidence could there be that they are?"

I think there a number of legit answers one could give. (1) yes. (2) no. (3) I'm not sure. All seem legit. And many employ just those answers. My purpose here was to try and uncover why one would answer yes. And, if I could spin a binary story for any case the proponent of degree talk could give, then why would one be inclined to stick to their degree guns? When answering this latter question I think it tells us something about the nature of responsibility and this could help us uncover some of the disagreements in the literature.

Also, maybe you're right that the folk would employ degree talk. I asked my mom and she said it makes sense. But, once I get clear on a particular case and spell it out in binary terms then employ the degree talk at a different level she also thinks that sounds right. So maybe the only lesson we can draw from the folk agreeing with degree talk is that such talk is only appropriate at a course-grain level. Once we spell out all the details of why we blame X more than Y for similar acts we will see that it's not ability that's doing the work which suggests that responsibility proper doesn't come in degrees.

Bruce, I appreciate you jumping in on this, especially because we seem to agree, and I was hoping we could find some common ground.

I came to the responsibility literature via a different route than most so maybe me thinking that philosophers are more of the degree variety is a bit skewed. Having a background in psychology and having worked with folks with mental illness for a bunch of years I immediately jumped into the psychopathy debate re: their moral responsibility. In that literature, many employ degree talk. So, for instance Ish, is very cagey not to say that they are not morally responsible per se, though they might be resposnible to a "lesser degree". In fact, if my memory serves me correct, many folks connecting mental illness to moral responsibility utilize degree talk quite often. I think Neil Levy does it, I know Ish and Al do, Shoemaker might as well. So, though I'm not sure where the gambit falls on this it seems that degree talk is held by many.

John, great questions! Those are the questions I was hoping to engage with in my initial post. What is at stake? I'm not sure. But, given that Al refers to degree talk as "important" to the story he tells about libertarians getting around the luck objection (in his referenced 2008 piece) it seems as though there might be a bit at stake here. Further, I think that getting clear on why folks have the intuition that it comes in degrees might be helpful to evaluating different views about MR and might speak to why folks are more inclined to adopt one view over another.

So, I'm not certain that it really does matter, which is why I asked those last 5 questions in the initial post:

"Am I wrong to think of MR in this way (as not coming in degrees)?" If so, what would be a downfall for thinking of it in this way? Further, is such a project worthwhile? Should we think that degree talk is important and what would change if we gave it up?"

So, I'm far from convinced that there is a lot riding on this and this is why I have put the project on the back-burner. But, it might be worthwhile to see where it goes which is why I thought this would be a prime target for a fruitful blog post.

Justin - When addressing the question of your kids' comparative arithmetical abilities, isn't the relevant question how responsible each would be for a _failure_ to do the addition correctly? The one with less developed ability presumably has more of an excuse, and in that sense has lesser responsibility, for failing to get the right answer - presumably to something a bit harder than 1+1. For a case of success you'd need a hard enough problem to warrant praise for solving it. If I understand your wnswer to Brandon, it focuses on responsibility for success at something awfully easy.

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