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Relative JusticeCultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility$
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Tamler Sommers

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139937

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139937.001.0001

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Can the Variation Be Explained Away?

Can the Variation Be Explained Away?

(p.84) Chapter Four Can the Variation Be Explained Away?
Relative Justice

Tamler Sommers

Princeton University Press

The success of defending universalist or objectivist theories of moral responsibility rests on a crucial empirical assumption. Specifically, the assumption that under ideal conditions of rationality human beings would come to share considered intuitions about moral responsibility regardless of their physical and social environment. This chapter raises serious doubts about the plausibility of this assumption by examining the origins of these intuitive differences and the psychological mechanisms that underlie them. It reviews recent theories in the evolution of cooperation, which suggest that a wide variety of norms may emerge as a response to the different features of a culture's social and physical environment. It then appeals to theories about the psychology of norm acquisition to argue that variation in norms about responsibility is grounded in cognitive mechanisms associated with emotional responses and intuitions about deservingness. It concludes that it is unlikely that we would ever reach agreement about the criteria of moral responsibility—even under ideal conditions of rationality.

Keywords:   moral responsibility, rationality, cooperation, cultural differences, norms, responsibility

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