Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series presents

Rahul Kumar (Queen's)

The Value of Accountability

THURSDAY, October 19th, 2017

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

Amongst the many commonplaces to which Strawson draws attention in “Freedom and Resentment” is the extent to which we are all accountable to one another. By ‘accountable,’ I have in mind our collective self-understanding as being entitled to demand, or legitimately expect, a certain degree of regard or good will from one another in virtue (in the absence of a richer relationship) of our shared humanity. That the attitudes and intentions of others towards us manifest an appropriate degree of good will is something to which most attach a great deal of importance; failures are experienced as an interpersonal rupture, associated with feelings of warranted resentment or blame.

Strawson, I believe, is right to stress the central role in practical and moral thought of the legalistic practice of interpersonal accountability and associated notions of blame, guilt, resentment and forgiveness. But he also holds this practice to be so deeply woven into the fabric of human life that there is no vantage point from which we can sensibly ask after its justification.  Like the modern morality skeptic, I find this second claim to be unsatisfactory: we might not be able to root out the disposition to hold one another accountable, but we can still ask whether, by our own lights, we would be better off if we could. In this paper, I offer a tentative response to the skeptic’s challenge via an argument for the internal relations between interpersonal accountability and many of the goods whose pursuit are constitutive of a worthwhile life.  


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