Scanlon’s Theories of Blame
In his now classic 2008 book Moral Dimensions, T.M. Scanlon offered a rich and influential treatment of the nature and ethics of blame. Against many views that treat blame either merely as an evaluative belief, or as a kind of punishment, Scanlon holds that “blame normally involves more than an evaluation but is not a kind of sanction.”1 On his view, a satisfactory understanding of blame should fit these facts, and should help us understand “the ethics of blame:…who can be blamed, who has standing to blame, and why we should blame—why blame is not an attitude we would do better to avoid.”2 In particular, Scanlon aims to explain why we should not think that “blame presupposes a strong kind of freedom” that we do not actually have.3
Scanlon’s view departs from his earlier discussions of responsibility, which talked of “a judgment of moral blame,” and emphasized that “blame…claims that an agent has governed herself in a way that would not be allowed by any principles that no one could...
My thanks to Craig Agule, Colin Chamberlain, Charles Goldhaber, August Gorman, Niko Kolodny, Arthur Krieger, Nathan Stout, R. Jay Wallace, an anonymous referee, and my audience at the American Philosophical Association (Central Division) 2018 meeting for helpful discussion of earlier versions of this paper.