Philosophy at St Andrews

What's the Point of Blame?

Wed 24th April 2013 16:15

Room 104, Edgecliffe

Miranda Fricker (Birkbeck)


Both remorse and blame are clearly negative moral emotions. But while few have considered remorse to be an unhelpfully negative moral sentiment, the idea that blame is pointlessly negative, even cruel, is frequently expressed, with the implication that moral life would be better without it. I identify certain key pathologies of blame, which should obviously be avoided, but go on to offer a vindication of a certain style of blame I take to originate in our most basic reactive attitudes, which I call Communicative Blame. This kind of blame is the second-personal mirror of remorse. I argue that together they have a transformative and ameliorative impetus, which consists in the fact that together these emotions serve to bring the different parties’ moral understanding into greater alignment, and so to create a greater alignment of moral reasons. In doing this, they serve to continuously (re-)generate our shared moral life.

I also argue, however, that there remains a dark side to blame about which we should remain troubled. The account given of Communicative Blame reveals that this kind of blame can have a constructive power which, in the wrong hands, might bring the blamee’s moral understanding and practical reasons into greater alignment with the bad. Whether or not a given practice of even Communicative Blame in fact serves the good therefore depends significantly on who is doing the blaming.

Philosophy Club event


<- list of future events

Index of archived news

October 2019 | September 2019 | August 2019 | July 2019 | June 2019 | May 2019 | April 2019 | March 2019 | February 2019 | December 2018 | November 2018 | October 2018 | September 2018 | July 2018 | June 2018 | May 2018 | April 2018 | March 2018 | February 2018 | December 2017 | November 2017 | October 2017 | September 2017 | July 2017 | June 2017 | May 2017 | April 2017 | March 2017 | February 2017 | January 2017 | December 2016 | November 2016 | October 2016 | September 2016 | August 2016 | July 2016 | June 2016 | May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | September 2014 | July 2014 | June 2014 | May 2014 | April 2014 | March 2014 | February 2014 | January 2014 | December 2013 | November 2013 | October 2013 | September 2013 | July 2013 | June 2013 | May 2013 | April 2013 | March 2013 | February 2013 | January 2013 | December 2012 | November 2012 | October 2012 | September 2012 | July 2012 | June 2012 | May 2012 | April 2012 | March 2012 | February 2012 | January 2012 | December 2011 | November 2011 | October 2011 | September 2011 | July 2011 | June 2011 | May 2011 | April 2011 | March 2011 | January 2011 | December 2010 | November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | May 2008