Moral Compatibilism: Rights, responsibility, punishment and compensation.
AuthorCorlett, Jay Angelo.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe moral status of collectives is an important problem for any plausible moral, social and political philosophy. Are collectives proper subjects of moral rights and moral responsibility (liability) ascriptions? Is it morally justified for the state to punish collectives for criminal offenses, or for the state to force collectives to pay compensation for tort offenses? Moral Individualism denies that collectives are properly ascribed properties such as moral rights, moral liability, and punishability, while Moral Collectivism affirms that some collectives may be legitimately ascribed all such moral properties. I argue for a compatibilist position: "Moral Compatibilism." Using a hybrid interest/choice model of collective moral rights, I argue that it is justified to attribute moral rights to some collectives (prototypically, numerically large nations and corporations). Furthermore, I argue that it is morally unjustified for the state to impose sanctions on collectives. For a necessary condition of the state's imposing sanctions on collectives (in a morally justified way) is that the object of the imposed sanction is a morally liable agent. But collectives, though they can (ideally) be morally liable for their doings, are typically not structured such that they are morally liable agents. Collectives--even highly organized ones--do not typically satisfy some of the conditions jointly necessary for moral liability. It is not clear that they are intentional, epistemic, and voluntary agents. This distinction between what a collective can become and what it typically is in regards to intentionality, voluntariness, etc., is crucial. Yet it is not made by others working in this area. The arguments of this dissertation have important theoretical and practical implications for action theory, moral, social, legal, political philosophy, and business ethics. It in no way follows from my arguments that collectives cannot be restructured so that they can satisfy the conditions of moral liability and become justified objects of state sanction when they act negligently or criminally. In fact, I argue that it is the moral obligation of persons in society to restructure their social institutions so that such collectives become morally liable agents (at least to some meaningful extent). This poses a challenge to moral, social and political philosophers to think of how such collectives might be restructured so that the state may legitimately impose sanctions on them to the extent that they are morally liable agents.