Moral Diversity and Moral Responsibility
Originally published in Journal of the American Philosophical Association
In large, impersonal moral orders many of us wish to maintain good will toward our fellow citizens only if we are reasonably sure they will maintain good will toward us. The mutual maintaining of good will, then, requires that we somehow communicate our intentions to one another. But how do we actually do this? The current paper argues that when we engage in moral responsibility practices—that is, when we express our reactive attitudes by blaming, praising, and resenting—we communicate a desire to maintain good will to those in the community we are imbedded in. Participating in such practices alone will not get the job done, though, for expressions of our reactive attitudes are often what economists call cheap talk. But when we praise and blame in cases of moral diversity, expressions of our reactive attitudes act as costly signals capable of solving our social dilemma.