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The Retreat of ReasonA dilemma in the philosophy of life$
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Ingmar Persson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199276905

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199276900.001.0001

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The Retreat of Reason

Ingmar Persson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts by analysing the concept of desert along lines suggested by Joel Feinberg. It then argues that this concept is applicable to us only if we have ultimate responsibility, i.e., responsibility for all conditions in virtue of which we have direct responsibility, but that we are not ultimately responsible for anything. It rebuts the attempt by Robert Nozick to block this regress argument against desert by an appeal to rights to our own bodily and psychological resources, as they are conceived in the rights-tradition of John Locke. It also contends that it would be of no avail to assume indeterminism: attributions of desert are undermined irrespective of whether determinism or indeterminism is true. Finally, it rejects the idea that we can have ultimate responsibility because we exercise a special sort of causation, agent-causation, which is irreducible to ordinary causation between events.

Keywords:   agent-causation, desert, Joel Feinberg, indeterminism, John Locke, Robert Nozick, rights, ultimate responsibility

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