Moral responsibility and consciousness : two challenges, one solution
Contributor(s)Macquarie University. Department of Philosophy
AbstractUntil recently, most philosophers seem implicitly to have assumed that consciousness is necessary for moral responsibility; this is, moreover, an assumption that seems built into the law. Under the pressure of scientific evidence and independent philosophical argument, some philosophers now reject that assumption. Against these philosophers, I argue that we need to be conscious of the facts that make our actions morally significant in order to be morally responsible for them. I present two separate defences of this claim. First, I argue that actions caused by unconscious attitudes do not express good or ill will toward others. Second, I argue that such actions do not express our evaluative agency. Finally, I turn to some alleged empirical evidence against the claim that we can be conscious of our volitions, and show how the defence offered is immune to this challenge.