The nexus of control: intentional activity and moral accountability
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There is a conceptual knot at the intersection of moral responsibility and action theory. This knot can be expressed as the following question: What is the relationship between an agent’s openness to moral responsibility and the intentional status of her behaviour? My answer to this question is developed in three steps. I first develop a control-backed account of intentional agency, one that borrows vital insights from the cognitive sciences – in the form of Dual Process Theory – in understanding the control condition central to the account, and demonstrate that this account fares at least as well as its rivals in the field. Secondly, I investigate the dominant positions in the discussion surrounding the role of control in moral responsibility. After consideration of some shortcomings of these positions – especially the inability to properly account for so-called ambivalence cases – I defend an alternative pluralist account of moral responsibility, in which there are two co-extant variants of such responsibility: attributability and accountability. The latter of these will be shown to have a necessary control condition, also best understood in terms of a requirement for oversight (rather than conscious or online control), and in terms of the workings of the dual system mechanism. I then demonstrate how these two accounts are necessarily related through the shared role of this kind of control, leading to my answer to the original question: if an agent is open to moral accountability based on some activity or outcome, this activity or outcome must necessarily have positive intentional status. I then apply this answer in a consideration of certain cases of the use of the Doctrine of Double Effect.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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