Title of Book

Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility

Editor(s) of Book

David Shoemaker



Document Type

Book Section/Chapter

Place of Publication

New York


Oxford University Press

Year of Publication


Page Range



Many philosophers working on moral responsibility understand that concept in a Strawsonian way; they follow P.F. Strawson in thinking that we should understand claims about someone’s moral responsibility in terms of the appropriateness of a certain class of emotions. In this paper, I use recent work in psychology of emotion to direct attention to the reasons why emotions are so tightly connected to our moral responsibility practices. Using the blaming emotions (anger, indignation, and resentment) as a model, I identify three different functions that emotions serve: motivation, appraisal and communication. Identifying discrete functions that the blaming emotions serve then allows me to circumscribe different kinds of considerations that bear on the appropriateness of such emotions.

I also link appraisal, communication, and sanction to representative accounts of moral responsibility. I suggest that each kind of account is inspired by a different way in which the blaming emotions are significant, and thus each account implicitly emphasizes a different consideration of emotional appropriateness. Fittingness accounts of moral responsibility are linked to appraisal, moral address accounts correspond to the communicative dimension of the blaming emotions, and desert accounts of moral responsibility are inspired by the blaming emotions’ sanctioning role.