I'm Not Angry, Just Disappointed

This is co-authored work with my friend Mariam Kazanjian (Indiana University).

We defend a minimal cognitive account of blame, which we call “Minimal Blame”. On our view, someone’s forming certain moral beliefs about another person is ordinarily sufficient for her to count as blaming that person. Specifically: if someone forms the belief that another person has acted wrongly without adequate excuse, or the belief that someone harbors objectionable attitudes, then she ordinarily counts as blaming that person. This is in stark contrast to every view so far defended on the nature of blame, according to which additional affective and/or conative components are necessary conditions on someone’s forming an attitude of genuine blame. We hold that, although blame is often and prototypically accompanied by certain familiar affective and conative states — roughly, angry resentment (an affective state) and a disposition to confront the blamed person (a conative state) — these states should not be deemed necessary for someone to count as genuinely blaming another person. We hold this view in light of empirical information, summarized in the paper, indicating that victims of severe and prolonged mistreatment eventually stop having the affective and conative reactions that characterize prototypical blame. We think that these agents should still be counted as blaming their tormentors if they continue to believe that they are being treated wrongly or shown inadequate care, and we defend this claim on political grounds. (Our project is thus an ameliorative project).

This paper isn’t quite ready for the internet yet. But, if you’d like to see the latest draft, shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you.