Samuel Reis-Dennis F'16

Samuel  Reis-Dennis
Assistant Professor
Berman Institute of Bioethics
Albany Medical College

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2016
Doctoral Candidate
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I Do Blame You: Responsibility in Real Life

This project defends a new approach to philosophical questions of moral responsibility by considering the justification of angry blame. It shows how devotion to control, quality of will, and self-disclosure-based theories of responsibility threatens to warp conceptions of both blameworthiness and blameworthy agents. To replace these models, the dissertation argues for the rejection of abstract metaphysical conditions of responsibility altogether. Theorizing about the legitimacy of blame should focus, instead, on an action’s meaning informed by its context and consequences, and on the ethics of response informed by an understanding of justified reactive practices. To contribute to this understanding of the norms of justified reaction, the dissertation offers an account of the role of anger in moral life, suggesting that angry blame is characteristically responsive to threats to relative status and that its effectiveness is due to its scariness—its tendency to signal a willingness to fight for respect.