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Moral Responsibility and Consciousness

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Our goal in this paper is to raise a general question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. The evidence from cognitive science suggests that there are no conscious mental states playing the right causal roles to count as decisions, judgments, or evaluations. We propose that all theorists should determine whether their theories (or the examples that motivate them) could survive the discovery that there are no conscious states of these kinds. Since we take it that theories of moral responsibility should, in general, operate with the weakest possible empirical assumptions about the natural world, such theories should be framed in such a way as to be free of any commitment to the existence of conscious attitudes, given the very real possibility that there might turn out not to be any.

Affiliations: 1: St. Bonaventure University ; 2: University of Maryland


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