Moral responsibility at the limits of awareness

Wessel van Dommelen

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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Moral responsibility concerns whether you are praise- or blameworthy for your actions. In order to be morally responsible, certain conditions need to be met. For instance, you need to be sufficiently sane to be morally responsible. Another condition, ‘the consciousness condition’, is that you need to be aware of the moral significance of what you do to be morally responsible for your action. If you do not know you are doing wrong, you cannot be blameworthy.

There have been a number of challenges to the consciousness condition. Findings in cognitive science challenge the causal efficacy of awareness on our actions. Furthermore, there are a number of cases at the limits of awareness in which an agent fails to meet the consciousness condition, but where that agent appears to be morally responsible. Examples come from habitual behavior, forgetting an appointment or misbehaving while drunk.

In this dissertation I defend the consciousness condition against these challenges. I analyze the dynamics of moral responsibility across time. And I argue that, often when an agent seems to be morally responsible, this is due to a related action the agent is morally responsible for. In other cases, we have alternative explanations for why someone may appear morally responsible.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Hindriks, Frank, Supervisor
  • Kleingeld, Pauline, Supervisor
Award date3-Nov-2022
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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