2

I was doing some research into compatibalism, incompatibalism, and its implications for moral responsibility, and came across Ted Honderich and his 'attitudinism'. He looks at compatibalism and incompatibalism as views that you cannot properly justify to exist individually, saying that we should take an attitude of 'affirmation' towards the existence of both:

Affirmation differs wholly from both in that it recognizes the existence of two attitudes where Compatibilism and Incompatibilism assert a single conception and a single connection with moral responsibility and the like. (Honderich, 1990, p. 149)

He affirms that we have the ability to conceive two kinds of 'life hopes', where compatibalists and incompatibalists are wrong to believe that there is only one conception of free will.

What I don't really understand is what this attitude means for moral responsibility. It is obvious for compatibalism and incompataiblism - compatibalists would generally say that moral responsibility is not at stake, whereas incompatibalists would say it is. What would Honderich's view suggest about moral responsibility then?

Am I missing something?

  • 1
    Information Philosopher gives a nice review of his views. It is a rare combination of determinist views on metaphysics (he is, basically, a hard determinist) with libertarian sensibilities on ethics:"We have a kind of life-hope which is incompatible with a belief in determinism." But "he says that moral responsibility is not all that is at stake, there are personal feelings, reactive attitudes, problems of knowledge, and rationalizing punishment with ideas of limited responsibility." – Conifold Aug 23 '19 at 2:54
  • @Conifold Yeah, I read through that site when researching. I'm not sure if I've understood him correctly - so he is a hard determinist (I believe he talks about the physical constraints of causation etc), but he is neither a compatibalist or incompatibalist? I don't really understand what he means by ''there are personal feelings, reactive attitudes, problems of knowledge, and rationalizing punishment with ideas of limited responsibility."' Is he saying that the life-hope of affirmation is one which makes us able to take moral responsibilities despite a determistic world? – Julian Cheng Aug 23 '19 at 3:04
  • 1
    I think it means that the emotive basis of responsibility will be there regardless of whether determinism is true, that there is a cognitive dissonance between our emotional aspirations and what determinism rationally entails (as libertarian incompatibilists hold), but he argues that "determinism-where-it-matters" is intellectually forced upon us by physics (as compatibilists and hard determinists hold). – Conifold Aug 23 '19 at 8:03
  • 1
    Yes, on the responsibility he is close to compatibilists. Unlike to them, though, to him this does not mean that we already have all the "free will worth having". In fact, we do not. In that, he is with libertarians. The very dependence on attitudes that makes the responsibility possible regardless also creates the loss of value that does not exist for "rationalists" on both sides. Because they tie the responsibility, the value and the truth into a single package, pick one, and advise us to adjust our attitudes accordingly. – Conifold Aug 23 '19 at 17:47
  • 1
    In that libertarian free will is valuable rather than an illusion to be shaken off, hence the loss of value from not having it. The kind of "justification" rationalists provide depends on having the package, to Honderich the responsibility needs (or has) no justification, it just is there, along with the attitudes. It is similar to the dissolution of normative concerns in evolutionary ethics: the norms are not justified by reasons, they are caused by natural selection. A "justification" of a different sort. – Conifold Aug 24 '19 at 3:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.