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09/16/2014

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Hi Matt,

Great post! My own take on this is that the puzzle arises when we fail to distinguish between synchronic blameworthiness and diachronic blameworthiness (or synchronic responsibility and diachronic responsibility, more generally). Synchronic blameworthiness concerns an agent’s blameworthiness at time t1 for an action that occurs at t1. Diachronic blameworthiness concerns an agent’s blameworthiness at some later time t2 for an action that occurs at t1.

Suppose that Red commits a murder at time t1 and that he is blameworthy to degree d for doing so in virtue of meeting the conditions for synchronic blameworthiness (he has an ill quality of will, or is reasons-responsive, or is a proper agent-cause, etc.). But now suppose that 50 years go by and he is, at time t2, a sweet, kind, and compassionate person and the psychological elements that led to the murder no longer persist in him. I claim that Red is, at t2, less blameworthy for the murder than he is at t1, in virtue of what he is like at t2. His diachronic blameworthiness is less than his synchronic blameworthiness. In this way, blameworthiness is not interminable. But, at the same time, it is still a timeless fact that Red was blameworthy to degree d at t1 for the murder which occurred at t1, just as it is a timeless fact that Red was blameworthy to degree d-n at t2 for the murder which occurred at t1.

I tend to favor a quality of will account of synchronic blameworthiness. On that conception, to be synchronically blameworthy is to have acted with a criticizable quality of will. Diachronic blameworthiness is, on my view, just a matter of the extent to which that criticizable quality of will persists through time. This is, according to me, a matter of psychological connectedness. Others have argued that diachronic blameworthiness is a matter of narrative coherence.

I think that a lot of people assume (perhaps implicitly) that diachronic blameworthiness is always equal to synchronic blameworthiness because they think that diachronic blameworthiness is a straightforward matter of personal identity.

Matt,

But blameworthiness and "all-things-considered to be blamed" are two different things. Someone could be blameworthy for X-ing, and yet I might not have standing to blame her, because I have done something similar (hypocrisy), or I am not related to the individual in the right way, or... So perhaps the passage of time inhibits (all-things-considered appropriate to) blame without inhibiting blameworthiness, like other factors.

Of course, we would want to now why. But then again I'm not sure how much of an explanation we have of any of the factors that inhibit blame without inhibiting blameworthiness.

Thanks Andrew,

I'm not sure which of two claims you're making. (I apologize for not being familiar with your clearly relevant published work.) One claim would be that there are different conditions for two kinds of responsibility, synchronic and diachronic. But I'm not sure why we should think there are two different kinds here. Why not think we make differing judgments after the passage of time, but still evaluating the agent in the some way?

You might instead be making the claim that the conditions on being BW for something are sensitive to the passage of time. So, to be BW for x might require some connection between some mental states and the action, say, and, supposing that those mental states change, the conditions on BW would then be less well-satisfied (or perhaps unsatisfied altogether).

It seems on such an account, time passing wouldn't necessarily play any diminishing role, if my quality of will or whatever remained fairly stable over that time. But it seems that blame for past transgressions just is less appropriate in some way (to be determined) the further away from the past action we get.

Hi John,

I completely agree that it's one thing to say that an agent is BW and another to say that we ought to blame him right now. Indeed, even in that distinction there are many further distinctions to make, e.g., between blaming them now and *expressing* that blame now. I hope to say more about these distinctions in upcoming posts.

But even if we thought that the mere passage of time generates reasons for us not to blame, we're left with a kind of puzzle if it isn't the case that the person is less worthy of blame. On most accounts of BW with which I'm familiar, there are no sufficient conditions that are time-sensitive in the relevant sense. So the passage of time doesn't affect their satisfaction. If one is BW for something, though, they are worthy of blame for it. Thus, even if there are moral reasons not to blame for deeds in the far past, they would have a curious function of telling us not to blame those that are nevertheless worthy of it, no?

Right. I was suggesting that this may be no more puzzling than the fact, given that it is a fact, that I may not blame someone for X-ing, if I am a notorious X-er, even though the individual is blameworthy. Why exactly is this so?

But maybe hypocrisy, or lack of standing for some other reason (not being the individual's spouse or parent or whatever), might explain in a way in which the mere passage of time doesn't. Not sure.

Good, John. I think that's more or less right. There are lots of moral reasons to modulate our responses to others in various ways.

I do think the mere passage of time is a bit more puzzling than other similar examples, like hypocrisy or not standing in the appropriate relationship to the target. For one thing, it seems to affect the license to blame across the board. And it isn't relationship dependent, and it doesn't have to do (it seems) with features of the blamer (as in hypocrisy).

I'll be getting back around to standing to blame in a later post. I'd be satisfied at this point if everyone agreed that one's BW is interminable. Then we can look to how to best explain the effect time should have on our blame. But I'm unsure whether everyone will be sympathetic to that claim. Andrew, for instance, seems to only accept it for one kind of BW.

So, I wonder, how plausible is it to think that BW for something is interminable? And does this fact, if it is a fact, seem remotely puzzling or problematic?

Nice, Matt. Well, it is not interpersonal relationship-dependent, but it *is* temporal-relationship dependent.

But, yes, I think I would hold (although this is tricky) that BW is interminable. It is forever. (Like diamonds.) I think BW would go away if personal identity changes. I think it is puzzling because BW is interminable, even though moral personhood (one's values, dispositions, etc.) can change significantly. But I still think BW is interminable, given sameness of person. If we have before us a concentration camp commandant, he is still BW, even if he has changed considerably and now would not be inclined to behave similarly. Whether we wish to blame him or her is another question. A younger generation of prosecuters in Germany has no problem going after these characters, and I'm inclined to be sympathetic to the notion that they should indeed be punished.

No doubt this is way oversimplified.

Interesting thoughts, Matt. So why isn't this sort of like punishment? Bob commits a crime and (let's say) deserves some punishment for it. He gets what he deserves and now he no longer deserves the punishment. It's always and forever true that he deserved punishment, but since he got what he deserved, he's no longer deserving of it.

Thanks, John. I think the sort of example you give is exactly the kind I'd want to point to in support. Suppose a teenager discovers that her grandfather cheated on her grandmother years ago, and, upon discovering this, goes and yells at him. It's unclear to me why this blame is inappropriate simply for the passage of time. (I take this to be roughly equivalent to your former commandant example.)

Excellent, Justin. Indeed, if one has the view that blame is often sanction-like, then one might be doubly tempted to take the route you suggest.

Here's one reason why I don't think blame is like punishment: they are measured differently. To wit, if someone deserves punishment, there is plausibly an amount of punishment they deserve. And that amount is measured by what they *receive*. If I deserve 40 lashes, and you give me 10 of them, then I only deserve 30 more. More importantly, if you give me any lashes this affects the lashes that others may give me.

But blame is different. The constraints on proportionality for blame are importantly tied to the blamer, not the blamee. For a particular transgression, there may be an amount of blame I deserve, but that limits not the blame I receive, but the blame *you* may 'deliver'. So, maybe there's a limit to how much resentment you can feel toward me, or how strong your anger, or whatever. But the important point is that your feeling that anger or directing that resentment toward me does not affect how much blame others may feel.

To speak metaphorically, in the case of punishment, but not blame, there is a total 'pool' of sanction we draw from, measured in terms of what the target receives. This is why our punishments can count time served and reduce a sentence retroactively, but it would be very strange to suppose that your being angry at me already should mitigate the blame deserved.

Hi Matt, cool post on an under discussed (at least by those in the free will debate...) topic!. Let me just start by saying that I share (more or less) Andrew's view. That is, I think that an individual can stop being blameworthy for a particular action. (I should not one terminological difference between Andrew and me: while he distinguishes between synchronic and diachronic responsibility/blameworthiness, I distinguish between synchronic and diachronic *ownership* for moral responsibility. So I think there's only one type of responsibility/blameworthiness at issue, but two sorts of conditions on it. I also agree with Andrew that much of disagreement here stems from an implicit acceptance that diachronic ownership/responsibility is a simple matter of personal identity.)

I think that *if* the Nazi war criminal has truly changed such that he possesses none of the psychological elements that moved him to perform a particular action A *and* none of background psychology that allowed the psychological elements to move him to A, then he is no longer responsible for his past heinous actions. And the reason is that he no longer has the heinous values or character he expressed through A-ing. (My view has a narrative element too, but I'll set that aside here.) I think that seems implausible to many because we do not directly know what a person's psychology is like so we have trouble accepting that people have actually changed. (We might also think that we have pragmatic reasons to blame them - e.g. to discourage others from being Nazis and performing heinous actions, but let's set that aside for the moment.)

For that reason I prefer a more hypothetical case involving a person who lives for (at least) 1000 years. (This is basically a case that Derek Parfit uses, by the way, but he doesn't talk about moral responsibility.) So we suppose that the Nazi war criminal lives another 1000 years (and let's call him Clive), but through that time continually develops his character. After 1000 years, he is still (uniquely) psychologically and biologically continuous to his younger self (as there have been no radical breaks in continuity in either respect), so he is still the "same person" according to psychological and biological accounts of personal identity, but he has changed such that he is no longer like his younger self character-wise. (Indeed, we might add that Clive has gone through many different characters, so at 1000 he seems very distantly related to his younger self.) Is Clive still responsible/ blameworthy for A? It seems to me he is not. While he is the "same person" in the strict, personal identity sense of the term, he is not really the "same person" because his character has changed so much since he A-ed. This latter sense of "person" is the sense at issue when we say a friend is not the same person they used to be because of a religious conversion or a car accident - we don't (usually) literally mean they are numerically distinct from the person we once knew; we just mean they have changed significantly.

Of course, as John (Hi John!) and you seem to want to say about such cases, you might say that Clive is blameworthy but not actually blameable because of the passage of time. But if it's an implication of your view that an individual can be blameworthy but not blameable (privately or overtly) by at least some possible agent, then it seems meaningless (to me, at least) that the agent is blameworthy. For one thing, we might not even be able to say or think that Clive (at age 1000) is blameworthy if that's considered (an albeit weak) form of blame. We could also have a case where an agent performs some action, but cannot be blamed by anyone (for whatever reason). I can't make sense of the claim that the agent cannot be blamed by anyone, not even themselves, but is nonetheless blameworthy. But I might be alone here, admittedly.

There's lots more that could be said about cases like this... Let me just end by saying that I think it makes much more sense to say that Clive (and agents like him) are not responsible/blameworthy any more. Just as someone can stop being (say) a teacher, an individual can also stop being responsible/blameworthy for an action. Though, like Andrew says, it's still the case that the agent *at the time at which she performed the action* (and perhaps for times after that too) is responsible/blameworthy for the action. That never changes.

Let me try to say a bit more in defense of the “terminability” of blameworthiness (apologies for the length!).

I think ascriptions of blameworthiness need to be temporally indexed. Though an agent may be very blameworthy for an action at the time of its occurrence, her blameworthiness for that very action can diminish with time in virtue of her relation to that past action (though it need not, and I’m open to the possibility that it may actually increase). So I do deny that blameworthiness is interminable. But I think I can account for *some* of the intuitive pull to say that “blameworthiness is forever” by emphasizing that the temporally indexed propositions ascribing blameworthiness are themselves timeless (just as it is an eternal fact both that Andy at age 10 had not read Reasons and Persons and Andy at age 30 had read Reasons and Persons).

Whether one is blameworthy for an action at the time of its occurrence (i.e. synchronically blameworthy) depends upon factors at the time of the action and perhaps on historical factors as well. I think most accounts of the conditions of blameworthiness are best interpreted as accounts of synchronic blameworthiness. But additional conditions must be met if one is to be blameworthy for some act in the past (i.e. diachronically blameworthy). Namely, one must be related to that past action in the right way. It’s natural to think that this is a simple matter of personal identity (PI). An agent is blameworthy for some past act iff he is personally identical with the agent that is synchronically blameworthy for that act. If one thinks that PI is the relation that grounds blameworthiness for past action, then its very natural to think that blameworthiness is interminable. This is because PI is all or nothing, it either holds or it does not, and when it does hold blameworthiness transfers freely and doesn’t diminish.

But, I think, there are good reasons to reject the view that PI is the relation that grounds ascriptions of blameworthiness across time. I think that fission type cases put pressure on the view that PI is necessary for blameworthiness for past action (but I won’t get into that now). I also think PI is not sufficient for blameworthiness to transfer freely across time.

Suppose that during WWII a Nazi camp guard commits some horrible act for which he is blameworthy. Now suppose that as time goes by his character gradually changes and his memory fades. Imagine that now, some 70 years later, he no longer remembers that past bad act, no longer has any of the beliefs, desires, or values that gave rise to the past action. Imagine, contra typical psychological reality, that absolutely *none* of the psychological elements that gave rise to the action persist and that now he is a psychological twin of the sweetest old man that you know. I think it is intuitively compelling to think that it would be inappropriate to blame the old man now for the past bad act. And I think the best explanation of this intuition is that he is not at all blameworthy for that past bad act because it is no longer attributable to him, he no longer owns the action. If we accept that PI holds between the camp guard and the old man (e.g. on the basis of a bodily criterion or a psychological continuity criterion of PI), but admit that his blameworthiness has diminished then this would establish that PI is not sufficient for the transfer of blameworthiness over time. And if PI is not sufficient for blameworthiness across time, then I think the claim that blameworthiness is interminable becomes much less plausible.

But one might object that PI no longer holds between the old man and the Nazi camp guard by appealing to some other criterion of personal identity. I admit that this is an open dialectical move, but it has significant costs. If you make this move you are committed to the view that there is some specific point in time during his gradual transformation in which PI is severed and the man goes from being fully blameworthy for the past act to not at all blameworthy for the past act even though the psychological changes that pushed past the identity threshold may have been minute. I find this intuitively implausible (Parfit makes use of similar arguments in making his case that “identity is not what matters”). The better view, I think, is to hold that the relation that grounds blameworthiness across time is not PI but rather something like psychological connectedness which is scalar. As John suggests above, PI is all-or-nothing but moral personhood across time can change by degrees. It’s the all-or-nothing character of PI that gives rise to the above problem (and also, I think, that gives the interminability claim plausibility). Instead, I think we should accept that the relation that governs blameworthiness across time is not personal identity but is instead a scalar relationship like psychological connectedness and allows that blameworthiness can diminish across time. The reason that the old man is not blameworthy for the past bad act is because he is no longer psychologically connected to “the springs of that past action.”

As for the claim that that the passage of time necessarily plays a diminishing role either with respect to blameworthiness or with respect to the appropriateness of all-things-considered blame, I’m skeptical. Suppose that A violently assaults B which puts B in a dreamless coma. As A is walking away from the scene of the crime wholly pleased with himself he is hit by a bus which puts him too in a dreamless coma. Suppose that both A and B are comatose for 50 years and then they wake up on the same day. Imagine that there were no significant psychological changes in either during that time. For example, A fully endorses the past act and is still disposed to violence. My intuition is that the mere passage of those 50 years hasn’t reduced A’s blameworthiness for the assault or the blame that B is justified to put towards A all-things-considered.

Sorry this is so long!

(Just a note: I submitted the above before Ben's nice post showed up on my end, which I why I just end up echoing much of what he says!)

Hi Ben.

Cool stuff. Do you think that on your view we ever blame people for some past action? It seems to me that on your view what we’re *really* doing is blaming people directly for their characters or some psychological set. Thus, it is never the case that someone is BW in virtue of satisfying some conditions in the past, we just look at the current time-slice and evaluate that person’s psychological set.

Maybe a different way to put it would be to say that some past action can give us the requisite evidence for concluding they have a particular psychological set, and then we blame them for that set until we have better evidence that they no longer have that set, perhaps getting reinforcing evidence along the way. Nevertheless, actions are just a proxy for the underlying inner states which are the direct objects of blame.

I’m not sure I agree that if an agent were blameworthy and yet no one should blame them that we’d have lost our grip on their being BW. Consider that it *might* be the case that we shouldn’t blame those for things that we regularly do ourselves, and, owing to the frailty of the human condition, the thing in question is something that we all do.

But in any case, I’m not sure I think that in these sorts of cases there is *no one* who has a license to blame the agent. Even in your long-lived Nazi, I’m inclined to think that they could (and perhaps should) blame themselves for their past atrocities, no matter how alienated they now are from their past psychological sets that precipitated those atrocities.

Thanks, Andrew. Very interesting stuff. Too much, probably, for me to satisfyingly reply to. But here goes.

First, on the last score, about the mere passage of time, I agree that it’s unclear whether that should make a mitigating difference brutely. In your particular example, part of the intuitive force may come from the fact that A isn’t just BW for the assault but also for putting B in a coma. And that result has only just now ended, so there’s a sense in which responsibility is still fresh. If we modify the case, keeping A in the bus-induced coma, and limit the harm to B to just severe assault, I think it is more plausible to suppose the intervening 50 years have diminished the legitimacy of B’s blame. There’s more to say here and it’s an interesting case.

Now, about PI and psychological connectedness. There is certainly a general puzzle regarding the following:
A is BW for x, having satisfied whatever occurrent conditions on BW there are at t1. Now it is some time late at t2, and we want to know something.

One question we might ask is whether A is still BW for x. But if that’s our question, I take we’re presuming that A is still A. Instead, we might ask whether this thing before us is BW for A. We might then suppose that answering yes to that question answers whether or not it is BW for x.

I’m not sure which way of framing the question I prefer. Mostly, I don’t have definite views on personal identity. I think identity is a strong relation, and one that we don’t often require. As you put it, it’s an all-or-nothing relation. And I do think I have definite views that there’s an ordinary sense in which I am the same person as I was at 15 while it is also true that I am a totally different person from who I was at 15.

So the question for me, then, is whether I think something more need be shown to say that A is now BW for some past x beyond that they were BW for x. I still don’t think there is. There may be a separate question about whether we still have A in front of us, as it were. But I think I can put that off, since it doesn’t concern BW directly, but any evaluation we might make of A. Does that seem right?

I might also ask the following clarificatory question: does it follow on your view that if, immediately after committing some atrocity, I completely renounce all the psychological elements that gave rise to it, and manage to eliminate them, I am also not BW for it? That is, is BW so terminable as to be, in principle, ephemeral?

Great points, Matt. A few quick thoughts below.

“So the question for me, then, is whether I think something more need be shown to say that A is now BW for some past x beyond that they were BW for x. I still don’t think there is. There may be a separate question about whether we still have A in front of us, as it were.”

If A being BW for x in the past is enough for A being BW for x now, this seems, if I’m understanding things right, to presuppose that identity is sufficient for blameworthiness across time. You’re certainly not alone in thinking so (again, if I’m getting this right), Ben and I are in the minority. But I think the case of the Nazi and Ben’s example of Clive, as well as more ordinary cases put pressure on the view. I’m not sure that the question of whether A is still around is a separate one. If A is not around, in the sense that A no longer exists, then I think that A cannot now be BW for x. Though this is compatible with the claim that it is true now that A was BW for x. And I think you might be right that the issue isn’t unique to BW but does apply to other (all?) agent-evaluations (e.g. praiseworthiness). But it does seem relevant to the claim that BW or any other agent evaluation is interminable.

“I might also ask the following clarificatory question: does it follow on your view that if, immediately after committing some atrocity, I completely renounce all the psychological elements that gave rise to it, and manage to eliminate them, I am also not BW for it? That is, is BW so terminable as to be, in principle, ephemeral?”

My answer is an enthusiastic yes! You would not *now* be BW for the past act (again, even thought it is now true that you were BW for the act). This might seem implausible, but here’s an attempt at a defense. Suppose that A commits some atrocious act, then immediately undergoes a psychological transformation such that A is now a psychological twin of yourself. I think that the newly changed A would not be BW for the past act. In a similar vein, if someone commits a bad act and then offs themselves, then, on my view, it is false that the person is, after his death, BW now for the past bad act. The person just isn’t around any longer.

Counterfactual:

We apprehend Hitler after WW2 atrocities. We decide that certain ongoing punishments are appropriate, such as isolation with enforced experience of the representation of the horrors he inflicted be repeated indefinitely. In the meanwhile Hitler experiences a moral epiphany and renounces the actions of his former self with (as far as we can tell) deep-felt earnestness. He thus experiences remorse and regret and even pain as he is subjected to these repeated representations. Does this justify continuing them or does it require that we cease such punishment?

He has changed. But the horror he instigated has not--it is irretrievably an act of abject terrorism in the past, and its moral depravity is without practical measure as assessed by future generations.

Then it's no longer about him. It's about basic social norms that require enforcement of punishment to ensure that the message of the absolute rejection of such behavior is socially effective. Excusing him or even a show of mercy based on repentance and change of personality would undermine such an important goal. At some point social norms of responsibility must trump individual norms of responsibility. So I'd say in at least certain exceptional cases.

I don't think that a sincere conversion the day after a murder should issue in exoneration. And I don't see how the mere passage of time should change anything (relevant to exoneration).

The case of overnight exoneration is certainly an unrealistic sci-fi type case. I should emphasize that my claim was that it is, in principle, possible that a person’s psychology could change so dramatically relatively quickly that BW is diminished or eliminated. For example, I see no reason to think that the dramatic psychological changes in Ben’s example of Clive could not, in principle, occur over a very short duration of time. (It may be, of course, that such rapid change is not physically possible for beings like us with carbon-based brains.)

This doesn’t seem, to me, any more puzzling than the fact that if a person commits a crime and then commits suicide, then there is no one left that is blameworthy for the crime.

I tend to think that people are a bit more generous with blame than with praise and I wonder if this may explain some of the intuitive resistance. For example, suppose that A saves a child from drowning and is praiseworthy for doing so. A then undergoes a dramatic psychological change over time (long or short) and becomes a wholehearted hater of children who routinely drowns them. I find it counterintuitive to think that A is still praiseworthy for saving the child.

Andrew raises a good point regarding BW. We do tend to be quicker to blame than to praise generally. And as I think BW and PW are more or less symmetrical, if I think BW is interminable than I ought to think the same about PW. And so I do.

But I’d like to push his example further. Consider non-moral accomplishments for which someone might plausibly be blame- or praiseworthy. The former could be a social gaff that thoroughly embarrassed you, and rightly so. It was embarrassment-worthy, as it were. The latter could be the sort of thing that we rightly call “a feather in one’s cap”. In such cases, I take it that reminiscing about those actions, an agent could rightly feel pride or embarrassment, now, for those past deeds. It isn’t just remembering that’s how they did feel, it’s genuinely having the response again.

I think the same thing is true in moral cases. We can again cringe and feel guilty over a past transgression, and rightly so. We can appropriately take pride in some morally upstanding past action now. In this respect, the first-person perspective is helpful, in part because it is shielded from many of the reasons to withhold or modulate our responses to which John and I have alluded.

It must be said, however, that in many, many cases, perhaps most, we will indeed have such reasons, reasons not to fixate on the past, to forgive ourselves, to redirect our finite evaluative capacities on the present. But all this is consistent with interminability.

Matt, this is not the first time I've been accused of having a view like this! However, I do think that we blame people for past actions. On my view, synchronic ownership is necessary for diachronic ownership, and so conditions in the past must be satisfied. So, an agent has to satisfy the control and epistemic conditions at the time of action, while an agent at a later time must be properly related to that earlier agent.

Also, I'm not sure the Nazi is justified in blaming themselves for their earlier atrocities. Of course the Nazi might blame themselves, but sometimes people blame themselves for things they are not blameworthy for. For example, I press a button thinking a light will go on, but it in fact sets off a bomb that kills people. Assuming I'm non-culpably ignorant, while I might blame myself in this situation, I don't think I'm actually blameworthy.

One thing, I think, those who hold the view that responsibility/blameworthiness is interminable must explain is how the property of *being morally responsible (or blameworthy) for X* is somehow different from other non-essential properties of ours. Why is it that I can lose many such properties (e.g. being a teenager, being a teacher, etc.) and yet I can't lose the property of being responsible/blameworthy for some action. That's seems weird to me, but perhaps there's some explanation available that I haven't thought of since I'm happy saying we can lose that sort of property just like we can lose our other non-essential properties.

Hi All,

This has been a very interesting discussion, which I'm coming a bit late too. I hold the view that we are BW interminally, but just had a quick question for Ben RE his last post:

Do you see a difference between the property of being blameworthy for A and, to use Matt's example, the property of being born in Virginia, such that the former requires some kind of explanation for not being losable that the latter doesn't (I take it that neither is an essential property)? (In other words, there are lots of non-essential properties that we cannot lose once acquired: is there a special reason why the ones concerning moral responsibility need an explanation?)

Simon

Thanks, Ben. I agree that we *can* blame even the non-BW. I think one difference between your non-culpable ignorance case and the Nazi case is that you were never BW for the bomb, and so your self-blame for it has and always will be groundless. But the Nazi at least was BW.

As for losing non-essential properties. I guess one difference here is that the conditions on BW for some action, as a spatio-temporal particular, are indexed to that particular. Which means they're indexed to the past. Unless, of course, you want to either distinguish between types of responsibility (as Andrew does) or add a condition to BW that isn't usually articulated.

Of course, if I understand you correctly, you want to say that an agent is BW for x when some condition obtains, but that to remain BW he must also satisfy some further ownership condition. Then you might deny that a person is even BW *at the time* because they don't own the action, but ownership of the action requires constant satisfaction of a set of conditions. Is that right?

Just one other point, which no-one else seems to have made yet. Where Matt refers to time, it seems to me that this means experienced time, not clock time. There are plenty of fairy tale/sci-fi scenarios in which someone time travels or sleeps for a hundred years, then wakes up still bearing a grudge. The legitimate mismatch between the traveller/sleeper and everyone else then drives the narrative. If that's right, then perhaps it is the intervening events, not the intervening time, that makes the difference.

Hi Simon

Good question. While being born in Virginia is obviously not an essential property of persons, it's not clear to me that being born in Virginia isn't an essential property of a particular person (let's use Matt as an example, assuming he was born in Virginia). I take that what makes something an essential property is that an entity cannot lose that property without also going out of existence. While I can imagine a person without the property of being born in Virginia, I don't think I can imagine *Matt* without that property. So I'm inclined to think being born in Virginia is an essential property of Matt's. I don't think the same's true with responsibility/blameworthiness: I can imagine an agent without the property of being blameworthy for X (even if he or she previously instantiated that property).

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