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01/05/2013

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Is there a marginal utilty to helpfulness, as there is in economics? Happy to help with the first request for a pencil, and the second. But the third request? The fourth? When does your normative "ought" become emotional blackmail, at the first request or at the fourth or at the fortieth?

Helpfulness (generosity) is a human trait tied into James's "craving for appreciation," where approval is the primary human psychological drive. Helplessness is the Rawlsian attempt, much like Freud's, to institute infantalysis as the highest civic virtue (the 'first position').

One or two pencils is simply human generosity, but continuous feeding of irresponsibility by giving uncounted pencils is the Rawlsian attempt to "flip morality" (Hitler, Khomeini, St. Paul, etc), transforming pleasing generosity into resentful obligation by making irresponsibility (infantalysis) into virtue.

My linguistic intuitions do not line up "wrongness" with "violating a deontic obligation". You did wrong, you ought not to have done it but you did not violate such an obligation. I just don't see why rights and wrongness need line up like that. There are occasions on which I've been a jerk and ought not to have been, but no one has a right that I'm not a jerk.

(I am trying not to do it again).

Hi Dana,

I think you're right about the example. Can I try modifying it a bit to see if I can't counterexample the blame-wrongdoing thesis? (Apologies in advance, this is a bit of a stretch.)

Let's say that the case you described is one that David devised. Let's call the stingy character in his case Scrooge.

Here's my counterexample. David offering the Scrooge case as a counterexample to the blame-wrongdoing thesis.

First, it wasn't wrong for David to offer this case.

Second, we can blame David for offering the case for roughly the same sort of reason we can blame Scrooge in David's case.

David offered this case in the belief that it's a counterexample to the blame-wrongdoing thesis under consideration. Among other things, he must believe that Scrooge did nothing wrong by failing to render aid. His offering the case in this belief manifests the same kind of insensitivity to the needs of others that rendered Scrooge's behavior culpable. So David's culpable, too. (He might not be culpable to the same degree, but that doesn't undermine the point.)

I don't know, does this work?

Not sure if this is relevant, or coherent, but when I read the thesis above I immediately come to think of situations which I intuitively judge as counter-examples. These are situations in which a figure of authority (or a government agency) acts or adjudicates in a case where someone is punished for a transgression (and let's assume that the community recognizes the pertinent law and ruling).

Examples might include a judge that sentences a man for abusing his wife or children; a journalist who digs up "dirt" on a business man; a police who decides to check the sobriety of a driver and reveals that the person is in fact over the limit. I imagine cases where the very fact, or the severity, of the transgression may be debatable - both from the perspective of the transgressor and at least parts of the community. Cases where - if the transgression had *not* been discovered, reported, judged or penalized - one could imagine an alternative future in which no one (including the alleged victims, if any) would really mind the fact that it was not.

I'm not sure this is entirely plausible. But even in cases where transgressors clearly *have* caused some - possibly very minor - harm to the community, they may very well feel *themselves* to be in a position to blame the authorities for the - possibly very far-reaching - negative consequences of "getting caught". So, a person whose career is ruined in the wake of, say, an alleged misdemeanor, will hold his accuser and judge blameworthy (they did something wrong) - but we still wouldn't say that those people ought not have acted as they did.

I'll close with a relevant case from real life: About ten years ago, a leading member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party was forced to resign from politics due to a "scandal" uncovered by journalists. She had bought a chocolate bar, for private consumption, using her "official" credit card, issued by the government. (This isn't quite the whole truth, but the chocolate bar really was what got blown up in the papers and what effectively damned her in the public's eyes.) The politician, I imagine, would certainly hold journalists, officials, and adjudicators blameworthy for ruining her career over "nothing", blowing things out of proportion. And I think most bystanders would agree - even if they were swayed by the bad publicity at the time. But, again, did any of the blameworthy parties do anything they ought not have done? No. They followed the rules and did their job. And we would not have wanted them *not* to do their job. But in this particular case, maybe the best thing for everyone would have been if the chocolate purchase had never been uncovered.

If nothing else, I think the thesis above may need to be sharpened by specifying which *perspective* is taken: *Who* assigns the blame to *whom*. It isn't clear (to me) what "being blameworthy" implies. If someone is "blameworthy", does that mean that *everyone* would or should agree that this is evidently so? Does this include the blameworthy person?

I should clarify my previous comment: I think it is quite possible for person A to find person B blameworthy for some harm inflicted by B on A, *without* A also holding that B has done something wrong (objectively, legally, socially accepted as -).

In response to Neil's comment (and please bear with me while I get the hang of handling comments):

I’m not sure we disagree. The principle I was defending is just the principle that blameworthiness for an action requires that one did not do what one ought to have done (or did what one ought not have done). The principle doesn’t mention “deontic obligation”, although I don’t myself mind talking in terms of obligations. The way I think of obligations, obligations and rights don’t line up. That’s because I might have an obligation to act in some way toward you that you don’t have a right to. That’s what I think is happening in the pencils case. Another (controversial) case where this happens is when it comes to forgiveness. There are times when I really ought to forgive (it was a trivial offense, you’ve apologized, and so on), but you don’t have a right to my forgiveness. Or take the case of a stranger drowning whom you could easily save. In the way I am thinking about obligations, rights are not the only basis of moral obligation. We may be using the word “obligation” in different ways, I’m not sure. Perhaps one way of seeing whether there is any substantive is that I take it that the notion of “ought” in the principle is the one that is at issue in the Ought Implies Can principle.

Here's a candidate explanation for the intuition that, by keeping my pencils, I do something blameworthy despite the fact that I act permissibly in doing so:

(1) I failed to respond to significant moral reasons that count in favor of a certain action phi (ex: lending you a pencil).
(2) These moral reasons are not weighty enough to establish the obligation to phi.

My action is blameworthy because of (1), but my action was permissible because of (2).

A potential problem with this explanation: (1) and (2), would also render the most generous person in the world blameworthy for his of her acts of charity. Consider Pete:

Pete is so committed to famine relief that he donates 98% of his net income to Oxfam. However, by donating (only!) 98%, he fails to respond to moral reasons that count in favor of giving 99% - people who would be helped by the larger donation will endure avoidable suffering. Let's stipulate that (2) is true and that it is permissible for Pete to give 98% - the fact that more people would be helped by the larger donation is not weighty enough to establish an obligation to donate 99%.

For ease of application, imagine that the act in question is Pete's single act of giving away 98% of his income. By giving away 98% rather than 99% Pete fails to respond to moral reasons that count in favor of the latter, which according to (1) would render his action blameworthy. But, we've stipulated that it is permissible for Pete to give the smaller amount. So, he's blameworthy for giving away 98%, despite the fact that this action is morally permissible (indeed it is supererogatory in the extreme). Thus, the stated explanation of why I'm blameworthy for keeping my pencil commits us to the implausible position that Pete, the most generous person in the world, is blameworthy for his charitable action. This might put pressure on us to affirm Dana's thesis after all. Since it is not the case that Pete ought to have given away 99%, he's not blameworthy for giving away 98%. Of course, there might be better explanation of the intuition in the pencil case that doesn't commit us to the problem presented by the case of Pete, but I wonder what that would be.

Hi Dana,

This is a great topic. I think you're right about the pencils case. I ought to have given you a pencil, and you can blame me for not doing so.

But there are cases and then there are cases. What do you think about the following one? Beatrix kills Bill (the motive was revenge for a misogynistic comment made by Bill in the office yesterday). Unbeknownst to Beatrix, though, Bill was about to murder her daughter, and the only way she could have prevented him from doing so was to kill him.

In a recent article in Pac. Phil. I've argued that this story is a counterexample to the principle you identify. Some days I'm sure I'm right, others not so much.

Can someone (e.g., Dana) help me see the intuition that it is false that you ought not (should not) have ignored my request for a pencil? To me, it's just obvious that you ought to (should) have loaned me a pencil. And of course that you did something wrong by brushing me off. (Dana's response to Neil suggests that my intuition does not require me to say that you had an obligation or duty to give me a pencil, though I'm not sure what I think about that.)

Thanks, Bjorn, Clayton, and Justin for the challenging new cases! Here are some first thoughts. The case of the Swedish politician is complex, and I wonder whether when we sort out the different candidate targets of blame and what they are blameworthy for, we can preserve the idea that where blame is warranted, there is wrongdoing. To take just one example, when it comes to journalists, one might argue that this is a case in which though they have a job to do, their job allows for a fair amount of choice about what to cover and how, and in some cases they really do what they ought not to do (both with respect to the norms of their jobs and with respect to the norms of morality. In some cases, like those of politicians who accept huge bribes and add moats to their mansions, it is reasonable to think that the press would be failing and violating their obligations if they didn’t report on it. But in other cases, like focusing continuously on the nurse who may not have followed proper procedures when fooled by radio show hosts playing a prank, and perhaps including the case you describe, they are making a mistake in focusing on this trivial case when they should be focusing on more important things (particularly if they could foresee the disproportionate response that would ensue). Or at the least, they ought not have done it in the wall-to-wall, 24-7 way that they did. This is just a start, but that’s the strategy I’d take. Either they didn’t do anything they oughtn’t to have done, in which case blame (though not frustration) would be out of place at least for the reporters who initially reported it, or they did act wrongly in which case blame may be in place.


Clayton’s Scrooge case is clever. Taking on board your assumption (just for the sake of argument, David!) that David is like Scrooge in showing a kind of moral insensitivity, one option here is to say that David is blameworthy, but not for offering the counterexample. Perhaps it manifests an insensitivity to moral considerations, and we might appropriately blame him for that (though this will depend on what it takes to be blameworthy for traits or attitudes which is a large topic in itself). But he is not blameworthy for offering the counterexample.


Justin’s Kill Bill case is interesting, too. (And I’m glad to recommend his paper (PPQ 2012) which I just had the chance to read quickly). There is much to say about it, and I’ll look forward to thinking through the paper in more detail, but one approach (which I discuss briefly in my book in addressing a case of Scanlon’s) is to say that what we are obligated and permitted to do is at least sometimes is a matter of acting for certain reasons and not for others. So Beatrix does do something she ought not do. The issue comes down to, at least in part, what makes an action something you ought not to do. (Sam Rickless and I take on the related issue of the relationship between one’s intentions and permissibility a bit in a recent paper, “Three Cheers for Double Effect.”)

I share your intuition, Eddy, and I am not sure I’m the one to motivate the contrary one, so I’ll leave that to others. But I do need to clarify. I think I have a moral duty to share my pencils. I just think duties can have different sources. Some correspond to the rights of others and some don’t. To put it in Philippa Foot’s terminology, some are duties of justice, some of beneficence.

Hi Dana,

"Perhaps it manifests an insensitivity to moral considerations, and we might appropriately blame him for that (though this will depend on what it takes to be blameworthy for traits or attitudes which is a large topic in itself). But he is not blameworthy for offering the counterexample"

Seems plausible. I worried about this sort of response. Part of what worries me is that I tend to think that what one's blameworthy for is a kind of de re moral unresponsiveness. Maybe there are different kinds of manifestations and David's offering the example isn't the right kind of manifestation.

I like Justin's case. I've been troubled by a similar case in which it seems that an agent might (i) know that there's decisive reason to intervene to protect someone using force and (ii) be motivated to intervene only when there are such reasons and (iii) be motivated only by bad motives. Spike was like this in Buffy. I'm sure everyone remembers when he was implanted with microchips and would suffer horrible electric shocks when he formed the intention to attack humans. He decided to attack non-humans under the 'cover' of virtuous action because he was bored and missed killing things. As with Justin's case, I'm tempted to say that whether the agent's actions were permitted had to do with features of the circumstance and whether the agent's culpable had to do with facts about the agent's motives, but I'm not entirely convinced that cases in which the motive of self-defense or defense of others is idle the agent's actions are justified.

Dana,

I think you're right that whether the Kill Bill case works depends in large part on what makes actions wrong, and I think the approach to the case you describe is probably the most promising for those hoping to defend the idea that blameworthiness requires wrongdoing. I myself don't find the approach to rightness and wrongness you describe appealing, but, as you suggest, the issues are complicated and there's a lot more to say on both sides of the issue.

Hi Dana (if I may)--I really love your work.

The one with 20 pencils is for all intents and purposes something like an economic one-percenter (relative to this situation). So context might refine our intuitions. Say that the 1-penciler (ok, I'm on a roll) couldn't afford more than one, rather than say didn't just think ahead of time to bring another she could afford. Then say that the 20-penciler not only obviously could afford what the 1-penciler could not, but that his mom gave him the pencils to assure that he had enough. This latter scenario is like inherited wealth to prepare heirs to succeed. With that as background, there are further injustices that inform our judgments. So I'd say that further context is everything for finally making well-grounded judgments in cases like this.

Hi Dana, Great post! Eddy, you've asked a very reasonable question. Here is a case of Julia Driver's, which she uses to give as an example of a suberogatory act (the mirror image of a supererogatory act). I cut my grass at 7:00 on Saturday morning, thereby waking my nice, slumbering neighbors. Her thought is that this act is morally permissible (and so not wrong) but is a bad act. The negative evaluative dimension is axiological, not deontic. Now, I want at least to explore the idea, contra views like Jay Wallace's and Stephen Darwall's, that such an act is a candidate for one for which the agent is blameworthy.

Tell me, for those of you out there who are convinced that in the pencil case it is wrong for you not to give Dana the pencil, would you be willing to *lessen* your commitment to that judgment if it were granted that the following was true: It was bad of you not to loan her the pencil; it was crummy of you; it was stingy, and mean spirited (note here the evaluative term is aretaic)?

In any event, if Dana's case does not move you, then what about Julia's? Or if not hers, can anyone think of a case where an act is permissible, and so not required, and so not morally wrong (with respect to whatever sorts of duties one might think of), and yet because it is a candidate for a different sort of moral evaluation (e.g., bad or vicious), it is one for which an agent can be blameworthy?

One note about Justin's interesting case: Even if it succeeds, and I suspect it does, it shows less than what I am interested in, since it is plausible to think that there still might be a conceptual link between blameworthiness and wrongness insofar as Beatrix believes (or ought to believe) that it is morally wrong to kill Bill.

Let me say that I myself am just not certain about any of this. Maybe after all the likes of Wallace and Darwall are correct.

Perhaps morality is relative to the opinion of the observer. In this case wherein X decided not to give you an extra pencil, I believe that X was immoral, but that’s just my opinion, and my opinion isn’t relative to an absolute. There simply isn’t any such thing as absolute morality (it’s just an idea), but humans may define that idea as that which optimizes the overall ascent of life.

Can you /accuse/ someone of doing something that's not wrong? Can I accuse you of loaning someone a pencil? Can I accuse you of performing your duties with the utmost courtesy?

I don't think I can. I mean, I could /say/ "I accuse you of performing your duties with the utmost courtesy", but I think it /fails/ as an accusation. You can /only/ be accused of wrongdoing.

I think the same is true of blaming people. I can /say/ "I blame you for doing my dishes and straightening my kitchen", but unless there was some (bizarre) reason why those actions were wrong for you to do, it /fails/ as a blaming.

Now it is possible for some people to disagree on whether some action was right or wrong, and so it's of little consequence that the politician blames the press when /we/ think that the press did nothing wrong. The question is, can /she/ blame the press if /she/ thinks they did nothing wrong. I don't think she can.

But what about this (I say contra what I just said above)? What if I say "I blame you for my losing /Canada's Dirtiest Kitchen/ competition." Let's say that your cleaning of my kitchen is the reason I lost the competition, but that you didn't know that there even /was/ such a competition. I think that other people would say your action was not wrong -- that it was blameless, in fact. They might also say that it's "perfectly understandable" that I blame you. But could they reasonably say that it's "appropriate" for me to blame you? I don't think they can. They could say it was "excusable" -- that they do not (and you should not) blame me for blaming you. But I think the only reasonable position for them to hold is that I should not blame you. Your action (in spite of leading to bad consequences for me) was blameless, and I should (eventually) recognize that. It'll just take me some time to fully accept that you didn't do anything wrong.

Maybe moral relativists could manage this contortion. Maybe they could say that cleaning my kitchen was OK according to the norms of your society, and so you did nothing wrong, but wrong according to the norms of my society, and so it's perfectly appropriate for me to blame you for it. Of course I'd still be dubious -- they should be judging everyone by the standards of their own culture, shouldn't they?

Applying the logic of my previous comment to the Kill Bill example, I'd say that Beatrix did do wrong, and so can appropriately be blamed for murdering Bill. However, I'd also accept that someone might hold that her action was not wrong (due to the unknown-to-her threat to her dau'ter), and so she was not blameworthy. What I find odd is the claim that she didn't do anything wrong, but she can be blamed for it anyway. I think that fails as a blaming.

Michael: Right. I contend that blameworthiness for A-ing doesn't entail that it was objectively wrong for the agent to A. But I didn't argue that there is no conceptual connection between blameworthiness and wrongness. Indeed, I'm very attracted to the idea you mention that there is such a connection via the agent's beliefs about the wrongness of her act. That said, I should note that Peter Graham has an interesting argument against even this weaker connection in his paper "Fischer on Blameworthiness and Ought Implies Can". Those interested in the topic should definitely take a look at his excellent paper.

About the lawn mowing case, I'm inclined to say that the action was wrong. I don't think there are suberogatory actions. Common decency is obligatory (other things being equal). Common decency says you shouldn't wake your neighbors up on Saturday by mowing your lawn. So...

Mark: In the paper I try not just to rely on intuitions about the case. I agree that there is a strong intuitive pull to the idea that blameworthiness requires wrongdoing, though I've got an error theory about why that's so. Instead, I try to argue for the claim that Beatrix is blameworthy for killing Bill and for the claim that it was morally permissible (and so not wrong) for her to kill him. The argument for the latter claim is the weakest, but there's still something to it, I think.

Suberogatory actions are super helpful in this context, and I'm inclined to think that Driver's lawn mower's insensitivity and crumminess are good grounds for judging her blameworthy. But, I have two worries about this move.

(1) Might the judgement that the lawn mower is blameworthy rest on her blameworthiness for *having the trait* of insensitivity or crumminess rather than her blameworthiness for *acting* insensitively? If it does, then there is space to deny that the lawnmower is blameworthy for the act of mowing the lawn (since after all it is a permissible act), while affirming that she is blameworthy for having the bad trait of being kind of a jerk. This way of thinking about the case might allow us to preserve the connection between wrongness and blameworthiness.

(2) Once we allow that agents can be blameworthy for acts that are suboptimal along the axiological dimension, is there a principled way of distinguishing between those suboptimal actions for which agents can be blameworthy and those for which they cannot? My sense is that we want to be able to draw such a distinction but I wonder how that would go. My case of Pete above was supposed to raise some trouble for any attempt to draw such a distinction, given that even almost optimal actions are bad, and hence potentially blameworthy, to some degree.

Great to have you around for the month, Dana!

I'm with McKenna on this one, as the original example suggests. The key bit of McKenna's comments was his focus on the possibility of many other sorts of "responsibility responses" we might have to the pencil hoarder, e.g., judgments that he's a stingy bastard, a headshaking kind of contempt, and so forth.

Indeed, the real issue here is what counts as being "blameworthy." Obviously, it means "worthy of blame," but then what precisely is blame? If it's the more capacious view of Scanlon, which includes moral criticism, and altered dispositions of trust, cooperation, and friendly greetings, then one may be blameworthy for all sorts of bad acts for which no "ought not to have done" may be attached.

What McKenna is doing that's pretty exciting, however, is trying out the possibility of accountability-blame, which consists in the typical Strawsonian negative reactive attitudes, for things beyond the au courant wrongings associated with second-personal reasons and claims. As the 1-penciler, I certainly don't have a claim on any of my neighbor's pencils, just like I don't have a claim on my neighbor not to mow his lawn at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Nevertheless, we might say, there are certain virtuosic demands they are, in both cases, failing to meet. These are the "demands" of kindness, or generosity. But it seems to me that one is not subject to an "ought" claim with respect to these virtues; rather, you would be good were you to do them.

This point is brought out by thinking of our responses in cases of the opposite: when the 20-penciler smilingly reaches for a couple of pencils and hands them over, or when the mowing neighbor waits until later to mow his lawn (and we know this). Here, our reactions will be ones of gratitude. Whereas (so I think) when someone does what they ought to have done, no response at all may be warranted (e.g., when I don't shoot you after you cut me off in traffic).

This is a great post, Dana. Thank you. And it has inspired a great discussion.

I wonder what people think about the relevance and merits of Scanlon's account of blame in relation to the cases under discussion. I suspect that when the term "blame" has been used so far, it has referred to moral blame. But on Scanlon's view, moral blame is but one kind of blame (grounded in the moral relationship) and there are other kinds of blame (e.g., friendship blame) that might be warranted in cases even where moral blame is not. So the view can easily underwrite verdicts of the form 'S is blameworthy for X but X-ing was not wrong'. You might violate the standards of friendship without doing anything wrong, and so I might appropriately (friendship-)blame you for your permissible action. Perhaps the details of the pencil case can be filled in this way.

Moreover, Scanlonian blame seems well-suited to the kinds of cases Michael McKenna brings up. Supposing there is something like a neighbor relationship, constituted by attitudes and dispositions those who live near each other should have toward each other, then mowing one's lawn at 7am might impair this relationship. Then one would be blameworthy for doing so, even if it is not wrong (and even if one is not moral blameworthy because this action does not violate the moral relationship).

Looked at in relation to Scanlon's account of blame, the principle 'if one is blameworthy for an action one ought not have done it' would seem to be preserved, but both the sense of "blameworthy" at issue and the sense of "ought" at issue would not necessarily be moral. That is, in every case where one is blameworthy, one ought not have done the action for which one is blameworthy, but only in cases where one is morally blameworthy does this entail that what one did was wrong.


Thanks for the post Dana (if I may), great topic!

If something seems "morally amiss" in either Driver's grass cutting example that MM eluded to or your pencil sharing example then it seems that the ethical theory that fails to deem these acts as wrong (if in fact we think they are) is simply incomplete and not that those agents are to blame for a permissible act. Those acts are morally amiss because there is something amiss about them (again, assuming one finds something wrong in these cases—I do). Such “amissness” makes the acts impermissible, at least to me. So, failing to give a pencil when you have far more than you need while the other person has none, as in the case you described, is wrong and those agents are blameworthy because of that “wrongness”. Once we spell out the details for why we think there is something wrong in either case I think we will notice that we are blaming the agent for what we find amiss. I guess I'm not convinced in the existence of suberogatory acts. I more inclined to think that most ethical systems are flawed and need to be fine tuned in light of such examples. If my inclination is right then it seems, at least in the cases discussed thus far, that none of these agents are being blamed for “right” actions. The actions or omissions in the given cases seem wrong. The wrongness seems to lie in the lack of virtue exhibited by the agents in question. I can’t think of a case where one is to blame yet what they did was permissible. When we dig into any of the examples we will find something wrong. If that's right then where this is blame there is wrongness.

Driver (and J.O Urmson in Saints and Heroes -1958) posits the existence of the suberogatory to help us navigate through different degrees of wrong-doing. I find that bringing in the term only creates additional questions and is not all that helpful.

Like MM, I am not certain about any of this. I am just trying to add to the discussion as this topic was discussed at length in a recent grad seminar. Great topic!

Back from a day of teaching to see all these great comments! There is much here to think about, so just a few thoughts for now about a couple of the new cases and kinds of blameworthiness, with more later.

About Julia Driver’s case mentioned by Michael, I have the same intuitions about the case as the pencils case. I ought not to mow my lawn at that time (absent more details anyway). Maybe all of these cases reveal a big divide about our implicit moral theories! For example, if you take it that moral oughts extend beyond what others have a right to, as I do, then more will count as morally wrong and as doing what you ought not to do.

David’s variant of the case in which the 20-pencil possessor smilingly turns and gives the 1-pencil possessor a pencil is interesting, and I think I share the intuition, but perhaps not the conclusions. First, the kind of gratitude one might feel might be of a personal variety, but might also be gratitude that the world has given me a neighbor with 20 pencils and willing to do what she ought to do when the odds weren’t that great. It’s sometimes hard to disentangle here. Also, this might sound a bit picky, but that the person smiled might play a role here, too. If the person just turned and gave you the pencil, doing what she ought, I’m not sure that one would feel gratitude of the personal sort associated with praise. Maybe smiling was beyond the call of duty? Finally, I’m tempted to resist the idea that in general simply doing what one ought doesn’t make you deserving of praise. Suppose what you really ought to do is incredibly difficult or requires great sacrifice. I think you could still be deserving of praise even if that’s what you ought to do. (Perhaps more on this in a future post.)

David (and in a different way, Ben) brings out the possibility that we might come to different verdicts on the thesis once we distinguish between different notions of blameworthiness. When introducing it, I had been thinking that the thesis was about something like accountability (to use Gary Watson’s terminology), something that goes beyond aretaic assessment. And I think it can be useful to think in terms of the appropriateness of the reactive attitudes, like resentment and indignation, for example.

Hi David: I'm not sure I understood all of the suggestions you made in your post. Would you mind clarifying?

Might it be that it would be kind of your neighbor not to mow at 7am AND that he ought not to mow? And might the ought claim be true even though neither you nor the other people in the neighborhood have a claim on the neighbor that he not mow then?

Also, could you clarify some of the claims made in your last paragraph? Suppose I smile and give you one of my 20 pencils. Ought I have done that? You seem to say that, no, I was not obligated to do that. Then did I go above and beyond the call of duty? Was my act supererogatory (since it clearly wasn't wrong)?

One last case: I see an elderly gentleman with a cane struggling up the stairs with his groceries. He clearly needs help, I've got nowhere to be, nothing more important to do, etc. Seems I ought to help him, right? I do help, and he thanks me for it. Does his gratitude in this case suggest that, in fact, I wasn't morally obligated to help him after all?

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