Causation, Control, and Abilities: The Agency Dimension of Moral Responsibility

August 17, 2017 - August 18, 2017
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin 10099


Stockholm University
Ulrike Heuer
University of Leeds Department of Philosophy
Alexander Kaiserman
Oxford University
Simon Kittle
Universität Innsbruck
Erasmus Mayr
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Carolina Sartorio
University of Arizona
Markus Schlosser
University College Dublin
Tilburg University
University College London


Johannes Himmelreich
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Romy Jaster
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

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Many assume that an agent’s moral responsibility is grounded in her agency, causation, or her control over that thing for which she is responsible. This workshop investigates this view and questions that arise from three directions.

(1) What grounds responsibility? 

Although this intuitive idea the idea that an agent’s responsibility depends on what she does, causes, or has under her control sounds clear at first blush, formulating the agential ground of responsibility has proved difficult. One proposal is that responsibility is grounded in causation. But this approach imports into a theory of responsibility the various problems that beset theories of causation. What facts about agency, control, or causation partially explain why an agent is responsible?

(2) What responsibility beyond control? 

Some believe that agents can be responsible for things beyond their control. Examples include an agent's character, addictions, or compulsive behavior. Yet responsibility for such things seems hard to square with the idea that responsibility is grounded in causation or agency. Should this idea be given up? Or do we need to take a step back and redesign the notion of agency? 

(3) What interrelations with other dimensions?

Instead of taking the dimensions to operate independently, control and foresight together might explain, why an agent is responsible for some things but not for others. Some philosophers link the agency and the intentional dimension by defining “control” with respect to reasons. In this third area of the workshop, we explore those approaches to moral responsibility that mix and interrelate the different dimensions.

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August 16, 2017, 8:00am CET

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