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05/21/2012

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This is an interesting case.

I'm not sure it's quite right to say that the pitcher is holding Kruk responsible. Plausibly, he's holding the cart-wheeling homerun hitter responsible by harming a teammate (the way a Hatfield might hold a McCoy responsible by killing his brother). At least, this seems like a natural interpretation of what Kruk says, since it's doubtful that Kruk himself felt guilty (and so it's doubtful that he held himself responsible). Moreover, he says he was ready to hold his teammate responsible for getting beaned ("if anything, I'd charge the dugout..."). Of course, Kruk does say he deserves getting thrown at, but this suggests that Kruk thinks that desert doesn't require responsibility, not that responsibility doesn't require control.

Also, I find pitchers to be real babies when it comes to this kind of stuff. Getting stood up or otherwise "disrespected" by hitters can't possibly warrant throwing a 5 ounce rock at an innocent person's head at 90+ miles an hour. And it's not my theory of responsibility that tells me that--it's pretty much any plausible first-order normative theory. So if there is some kind of irrationality going on in this case, I'd locate it here, since I suspect pitchers aren't being rational when they retaliate to disrespect in this way.

Anyway, go Braves!

What a great case, Tamler.

Some random thoughts. First, this is a case of punishment, and as such, it may not require responsibility (even if it requires desert). Note that it's really the pitcher's duty to respond this way (which is what Kruk knew), and for all we know it could have been executed without any sort of judgments of blameworthiness/blame/reactive emotions we typically associate with (negative) responsibility. For those who think warranted punishment without responsibility is impossible, consider strict liability (although I grant that many are skeptical about the "warranted" part of that statement).

Second, interestingly, the target of punishment wasn't Kruk qua Kruk; it was Kruk qua next-batter-up-on-the-opposing-team. It wasn't like the pitcher was going to wait to bean Kruk if he came up third in the next inning. Nevertheless, it's a really interesting case because it suggests, at least, that identification of some sort with the doers of deeds (so not the active endorsement sort of identification, certainly) with others may ground (deserving?) punishment for those deeds (albeit not necessarily responsibility). Figuring out the conditions of that sort of identification would be tough and cool.

Interestingly, I've heard pitchers argue (non-philosophically) that it would be either IRRATIONAL or somehow normatively wrong NOT to hit the next batter after a showboating incident. I recall Curt Schilling saying this once, and Nolan Ryan as well. In some sense, it's a case of making an example for the wrong done, but Ryan and Schilling put it in terms of how NOT doing it would affect their own teammates, rather than on righting the wrong (teammates will lose respect for a pitcher who won't strike back after a perceived slight). Wild West Retributivism still rules in the unwritten laws of baseball.

One interesting note: pitchers rarely intentionally plunk other pitchers (another of the unwritten rules of baseball) , so the hitter in the eighth slot of the batter order have more leeway to showboat.

Fiery Cushman et al have a paper on this phenomenon coming out:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103112000595

Thanks for the responses everyone.

Justin, you seem to be just assuming that responsibility can't be collective. You say that the natural interpretation of Kruk's remark is that the pitcher is holding the showboater responsible by hitting Kruk. Why is that the natural interpretation? Because Kruk doesn't feel any guilt. So then you're committed to the claim that feeling guilt is a necessary condition for holding yourself responsible. But that only seems plausible if you already hold a individualist conception of responsibility...

And since Kruk says explicitly that he deserved to be hit, you have to interpret Kruk as committed to the view that desert doesn't require responsibility. But that doesn't seem all that natural to me. Isn't more plausible to say that Kruk thinks that desert doesn't require INDIVIDUAL responsibility? And by the way, I don't think pitchers are being irrational at all when they retaliate. As Dave and Eric note, it can be a moral duty (as long as the pitcher isn't trying to hit the guy in the head).

Dave, on the strict liability issue, isn't that a case of punishment without desert as well as responsibility? If so, then the individualist can't worm out of this case that easily. But I think you're absolutely right that identity plays a big part of this. If the next guy up had been another
teammate, that teammate would have deserved (or "deserved") to be hit instead of Kruk. And if there's some shared identity, then I think the pitcher might very well have felt the reactive emotions to whoever it was that came up to the plate. So yes, I agree that figuring out the conditions for identification might be the key to this whole issue.

Andrew, thanks--I know that paper and everyone interested in this topic should check it out. I hope to post something about Fiery's interpretation of his results (which I don't fully agree with) here soon.

Having just reviewed Tamler's book (congrats, by the way), I know that baseball examples are a favorite of his for illustrating these supposedly collectivist conceptions. So, first, let me say I think it's great to examine more closely what those involved in these practices actually take themselves to be doing.

One thing Tamler isn't making clear here, and it affects how we view the case, is that the norms of responsibility for him are the norms of fairly holding others answerable. Responsibility is answerability. This plausibly explains the differences between his reaction to the case and Justin's (I think).

Here's one way to show it. I think Justin's right that the pitcher can't think that Kruk wronged him. If he were to explain why Kruk got beaned (if he did get beaned), it would have to do with Kruk's teammate's conduct, not Kruk's. (In this way, David makes an excellent point in noting that nothing about Kruk matters except that he's the next batter.)

So, I think the pitcher would readily admit that the wrongdoing isn't attributable to Kruk. So the question is whether Kruk can be responsible for it. Justin (and David) give us some reasons for thinking he isn't - but these seem to me to turn on questions closely associated with attributability.

If, instead, we ask, can Kruk legitimately be held answerable for the actions of his teammates? I think it's much more plausible to answer, "Yes", and to think that all that matters for answering that question is determining what the accepted norms are for the practice.

So whether the case illustrates what Tamler wants it to (i.e., evidence of collective responsibility) turns on whether he's got the right picture of moral responsibility.

Apologies for droning on, but there is a final interesting point to be made in this same vein (and one that might be helpful to Tamler moving forward?). There seem to be two different conceptions of collective responsibility, only one of which is illustrated here. Another way to say this is that it isn't obvious that Justin has to deny collective responsibility to interpret the case as he does.

So, we might say that the Phillies won the game. There, plausibly, no one player is responsible for winning - rather it is the collective effort. So we might say the Phillies are responsible for winning the game (they might deserve credit or praise or whatever). This could be true without any following regarding what particular members of the team deserve (or what reactions are appropriate). That is, the fact of collective responsibility needn't imply anything about individual responsibility.

But on Tamler's interpretation of the case, the actions of a Philly do imply something about Kruk's responsibility. This might be a sense of collective responsibility (though it doesn't seem to me to be the standard sense), but it isn't the only sense. So denying that interpretation of the case doesn't commit one to denying collective responsibility tout court.

(Again, apologies for going on so long!)

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