Bell's To Blame Summary

Superior Essays
Before moving on to Bell’s response to Wallace, it is important to quickly sketch out one conception of blame. Earlier in her paper, Bell asserts that, “at a minimum, for X to blame Y for some action a, X must believe that Y performed a, X must believe that a is wrong, and X must express this belief in some form of communication.” Furthermore, she notes the additional requirement that X must believe Y is blameworthy for a. Nevertheless, Bell believes that there is more to blame than this; specifically, she believes that to blame is to be liable for a range of negative emotions. That is, if X blames Y for a, X is liable to hostile emotions towards Y. Call this the Hostile Attitude Account of blame. Furthermore, note that under this account, …show more content…
Suppose that one were to claim that weak-willed hypocrites have standing to blame, while clear-eyed hypocrites do not. Bell thinks that we should reject such a claim on the grounds of respecting privacy. Her idea is that we can’t know whether someone is engaged in clear-eyed hypocritical criticism without performing an extensive investigation of the critic. However, our moral obligation to respect other’s privacy forbids such investigation. Bell puts this quite nicely in saying, “we should not have to publicly sort through all of our dirty—and clean—laundry in order for the content of our criticism to be taken seriously.” Furthermore, Bell thinks that those who claim clear-eyed hypocrites lack standing to blame seem to be conflating “failing to blame” with “lacking standing to blame”. For example, Bell asks us to consider a situation where one person expresses gratitude to another despite not actually feeling grateful at all. In this situation, it is clear that they are feigning gratitude or failing to be grateful; what is not clear is that they lack the standing for gratitude. Analogously, clear-eyed hypocrites may feign blame or fail to blame but that is not to say that they lack the standing to

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