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Douglas Portmore

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Discussion Note Editor:

Douglas Portmore

Resisting Tracing's Siren Song

by Craig Agule

Drunk drivers and other culpably incapacitated wrongdoers are often taken to pose a problem for reasons-responsiveness accounts of moral responsibility. These accounts predicate moral responsibility upon an agent having the capacities to perceive and act upon moral reasons, and the culpably incapacitated wrongdoers lack exactly those capacities at the time of their wrongdoing. Many reasons-responsiveness advocates thus expand their account of responsibility to include a tracing condition: The culpably incapacitated wrongdoer is blameworthy despite his incapacitation precisely because he is responsible for becoming incapacitated. As some skeptics have suggested, it is not clear that we need tracing. Here, however, I make a stronger case against tracing: I show that tracing gets things wrong. I consider a new sort of case, the case of the Odysseus agent, whose incapacitation is non-culpable (sometimes merely permissible and sometimes praiseworthy). Tracing would have us hold responsible and therefore blame unlucky Odysseus agents, Odysseus agents who commit a wrongdoing in the throes of their non-culpably induced incapacitation. But we should not hold these unlucky Odysseus agents responsible for their incapacitated wrongdoing. Because tracing gets these cases wrong, we should reject tracing.

ISSN 1559-3061
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