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Crossed Wires: Blaming Artifacts for Bad Outcomes

Sytsma, Justin (2021) Crossed Wires: Blaming Artifacts for Bad Outcomes. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Philosophers and psychologists often assume that responsibility and blame only apply to certain agents. Sometimes this is nuanced by claiming that there are multiple ordinary concepts of blame and responsibility, with one set being purely descriptive while the other is distinctively moral, and with the latter applying just to certain agents. But do our ordinary concepts of responsibility and blame reflect these assumptions? In this article, I investigate one recent debate where these assumptions have been applied—the back-and-forth over how to explain the impact of norms on ordinary causal attributions. I investigate one prominent case where it has been found that norms matter for causal attributions, but where it is claimed that responsibility and blame do not apply because the case involves artifacts. Across six studies (total N=1,492) more carefully investigating Hitchcock and Knobe’s (2009) Machine Case, I find that the same norm effect found for causal attributions is found for responsibility and blame attributions, with participants tending to ascribe both to a norm-violating artifact. Further, the evidence suggests that participants do so because they are using these terms in a broadly normative, but not distinctively moral, way.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Sytsma, Justin
Additional Information: Forthcoming in The Journal of Philosophy.
Keywords: Responsibility, Blame, Causation, Agent Assumption, Responsibility Account, Counterfactual Account, Experimental Philosophy
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Justin Sytsma
Date Deposited: 16 May 2021 19:53
Last Modified: 16 May 2021 19:53
Item ID: 19040
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Date: 15 May 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19040

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