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Agency and responsibility: the personal and the political
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. Umeå University.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7425-3041
2023 (English)In: Philosophical Issues, ISSN 1533-6077, E-ISSN 1758-2237, Vol. 33, no 1, p. 70-82Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, I review arguments according to which harsh criminal punishments and poverty are undeserved and therefore unjust. Such arguments come in different forms. First, one may argue that no one deserves to be poor or be punished, because there is no such thing as desert-entailing moral responsibility. Second, one may argue that poor people in particular do not deserve to remain in poverty or to be punished if they commit crimes, because poor people suffer from psychological problems that undermine their agency and moral responsibility. Third, one may argue that poor and otherwise marginalized people frequently face external obstacles that prevent them from taking alternative courses of action. The first kind of argument has its place in the philosophy seminar. Psychological difficulties may be important to attend to both in personal relationships and when holding ourselves responsible. Nevertheless, I argue that neither type of argument belongs in political contexts. Moral responsibility scepticism ultimately rests on contested intuitions. Labelling certain groups of people particularly irrational, weak-willed, or similar is belittling and disrespectful; such claims are also hard to prove, and may have the opposite effect to the intended one on people's attitudes. Arguments from external obstacles have none of these problems. Such arguments may not take us all the way to criminal justice reform, but in this context, we can supplement them with epistemic arguments and crime prevention arguments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2023. Vol. 33, no 1, p. 70-82
Keywords [en]
Criminal justice, distributive justice, poverty, moral responsibility, Bruce Waller
National Category
Ethics Philosophy
Research subject
Practical Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-213760DOI: 10.1111/phis.12243ISI: 001049710800001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85168261103OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-213760DiVA, id: diva2:1792106
Available from: 2023-08-28 Created: 2023-08-28 Last updated: 2023-12-19Bibliographically approved

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Jeppsson, Sofia

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