PHIL 1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Moral Responsibility, Modus Tollens, Modus Ponens

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15 Sep 2020
Hao Tran
Intro to Philosophy
Notes: Phil 1
Two main reactions (of Strawson):
o It convinces almost all students (of Strawson’s)
o It tends to be dismissed in contemporary discussion as wrong, irrelevant, too
rapid, or an expression of metaphysical delusions of magnificence
Thinks that the Basic Argument is valid in showing that we cannot be morally
responsible in the way that many suppose
Thinks the statements of the Basic Argument are obvious
Moral responsibility connects more tightly with the notion of guilt than shame
o In many cultures, one can attach shame to oneself because of the actions of one’s
family member (not their own actions)
o The feeling of shame in such cases doesn’t need to involve the irrational belief
that one is responsible for other’s actions
o there's no doubt people can feel guilty about the actions of others, but less obvious
that they can do so w/o any sense of belief that they are responsible
The story of heaven and hell
o True moral responsibility is responsibility that, if we have it, then it makes sense
to suppose that it could be just to punish some of us with eternal torment in hell
and reward others with eternal bliss in heaven
o One doesn’t have to be religious to believe in true moral responsibility
o The story illustrates the kind of absolute accountability, or responsibility, that
many have & still do suppose themselves to have
Large, small, morally significant or neutral situations of choice occur regularly in human
o They lie at the heart of the experience of freedom and moral responsibility
o They are the fundamental source of our inability to give up belief in true/ultimate
moral responsibility
A tendency in ordinary thought to think that one can be truly morally responsible, even if
one’s character is ultimately wholly non-self-determined
The Basic Argument restated (by Strawson) in basic (loose) terms:
o (1) You do what you do, in any situation in which you find yourself, because of
the way you are
o So, (2) to be truly morally responsible for what you do you must be truly
responsible for the way you are (in certain mental respects)
o Or; (1) what you intentionally do, given the circumstances in which you find
yourself, flows necessarily from how you are
o Hence, (2) you have to have some responsibility for how you are in order to get to
have some responsibility for what you intentionally do, given the circumstances in
which you find yourself
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