Advertisement

Nudges and Other Moral Technologies in the Context of Power: Assigning and Accepting Responsibility

  • Mark Alfano
  • Philip Robichaud
Chapter

Abstract

Strawson argues that we should understand moral responsibility in terms of our practices of holding responsible and taking responsibility. The former covers what is commonly referred to as backward-looking responsibility, while the latter covers what is commonly referred to as forward-looking responsibility. We consider new technologies and interventions that facilitate assignment of responsibility. Assigning responsibility is best understood as the second- or third-personal analog of taking responsibility. It establishes forward-looking responsibility. But unlike taking responsibility, it establishes forward-looking responsibility in someone else. When such assignments are accepted, they function in such a way that those to whom responsibility has been assigned face the same obligations and are susceptible to the same reactive attitudes as someone who takes responsibility. One family of interventions interests us in particular: nudges. We contend that many instances of nudging tacitly assign responsibility to nudgees for actions, values, and relationships that they might not otherwise have taken responsibility for. To the extent that nudgees tacitly accept such assignments, they become responsible for upholding norms that would otherwise have fallen under the purview of other actors. While this may be empowering in some cases, it can also function in such a way that it burdens people with more responsibility that they can (reasonably be expected to) manage.

References

  1. Alfano, M. 2013. Character as Moral Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Austin, J.L. 1975. How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. ———. 1979. A Plea for Excuses. In Philosophical Papers, ed. J.O. Urmson and G.J. Warnock. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartlett, B. (2017, April 3). Jared Kushner, the Assistant with the Big Portfolio. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/opinion/jared-kushner-the-assistant-with-the-big-portfolio.html. Accessed 5 Jan 2018.
  5. Bell, M. 2013. Hard Feelings: The Moral Psychology of Contempt. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beshears, J. Benartzi, S., Mason, R., and Milkman, K. 2017. How Do Consumers Respond When Default Options Push the Envelope? Available at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3050562
  7. Castleman, B., and L. Page. 2014. Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence. Journal of Human Resources 51 (2): 389–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chassot, S., R. Wüstenhagen, N. Fahr, and P. Graf. 2014. Introducing Green Electricity as the Default Option. In Marketing Renewable Energy: Concepts, Business Models, and Cases, ed. C. Herbes and C. Friege. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Darby, D., and N. Branscombe. 2014. Beyond the Sins of the Fathers: Responsibility for Inequality. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 38: 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Darwall, S. 2018. Contempt as an Other-Characterizing, “Hierarchizing” Attitude. In The Moral Psychology of Contempt, ed. M. Mason. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  11. Dunbar, R. 1992. Neocortex Size as a Constraint on Group Size in Primates. Journal of Human Evolution 22 (6): 469–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. ———. 1993. Coevolution of Neocortical Size, Group Size and Language in Humans. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (4): 681–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fischer, J.M., and M. Ravizza. 1998. Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodin, R. 1998. Social Welfare and Individual Responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hauser, C. 2016. Black Doctor Says Delta Flight Attendant Rejected Her; Sought ‘Actual Physician’. The New York Times, October 14. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/us/black-doctor-says-delta-flight-attendant-brushed-her-aside-in-search-of-an-actual-physician.html. Accessed 5 Jan 2018.
  16. Hohfeld, W. 1913. Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning. Yale Law Journal 23 (1): 16–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kettle, S., Hernandez, M., Ruda, S., and Sanders, M. 2016. Behavioral Interventions in Tax Compliance: Evidence from Guatemala. World Bank Policy Research Working Papers.  https://doi.org/10.1596/1813-9450-7690.
  18. Manne, K. 2017. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Mason, M. 2018. Contempt: At the Limits of Reactivity. In The Moral Psychology of Contempt, ed. M. Mason. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  20. McKiernan, A. 2016. Standing Conditions and Blame. Southwest Philosophy Review 32 (1): 145–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Searle, J. 1995. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  22. Sellars, W. 1954. Some Reflections on Language Games. Philosophy of Science 21 (3): 204–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Shepherd, L., R. O’Carroll, and E. Ferguson. 2014. An International Comparison of Deceased and Living Organ Donation/Transplant Rates in Opt-in and Opt-out Systems: A Panel Study. BMC Medicine 12 (131).  https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-014-0131-4.
  24. Strawson, P. 1962. Freedom and Resentment. Proceedings of the British Academy, 48: 1–25, Reprinted in G. Watson (Ed.) (2003). Free Will, 2nd edition. Oxford: 72–93.Google Scholar
  25. Thaler, R., and R. Sunstein. 2008. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Todd, P. forthcoming. A Unified Account of the Moral Standing to Blame. Nous.Google Scholar
  27. Van de Poel, I. 2011. The Relations Between Forward-Looking and Backward-Looking Responsibility. In Moral Responsibility: Beyond Free Will and Determinism, ed. N. Vincent, I. van de Poel, and J. van den Hoeven. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Vargas, M. 2013. Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Watson, G. 1987. Responsibility and the Limits of Evil. In Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions, ed. F. Schoeman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. White, M.D. 2016. Bad Medicine: Does the Unique Nature of Health Care Decisions Justify Nudges? In Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics, ed. I.G. Cohen, H.F. Lynch, and C. Robertson. Birmingham: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. G. E. M. Anscombe & R. Rhees (eds.), G. E. M. Anscombe (trans.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Alfano
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philip Robichaud
    • 3
  1. 1.Delft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Australian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Free UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations