Granting Organization

Northern Michigan University

Amount of Grant




Document Type





This proposal details a project that builds on my current interdisciplinary research program to articulate and develop a novel theory of moral responsibility. Like many philosophers, I maintain that whether someone is morally responsible for an action depends on whether it is appropriate to adopt attitudes such as anger and resentment toward the person. What makes my view unique is how I understand these “reactive attitudes.” I show they serve three functions: to appraise the action of a person (e.g. that it is wrong), to communicate the appraisal of wrongdoing to others, and to sanction the perceived wrongdoer. My defense of this view is also distinctive. Rather than engaging in purely armchair philosophical speculation, I appeal to the latest developments in empirical psychology, evolutionary biology, and other relevant empirical sciences. One further virtue of my theory is its ability to help us solve theoretical problems in other areas of philosophy. For example, my theory clarifies whether people who are manipulated into performing actions are morally responsible for what they do and also explains what makes forgiveness possible and warranted. Additionally, it allows us to resolve serious practical problems in legal and medical ethics that concern the moral responsibility of people who engage in compulsive behavior, like addicts. The end result of my work will be a book-length monograph that will shape and deeply inform both current and future debates about moral responsibility.