Til bevillingsoversigt

The Beam and the Mote: Standing to Blame and Interpersonal Morality (BEAM)

The Carlsberg Foundation's 'Semper Ardens' Fellowships within the Humanities and Social Sciences

What

We often dismiss blame indirectly. We do not deny that we have done anything blameworthy, but we deny that the blamer is in a position to hold us accountable. One example of this is hypocritical blame, where we respond, metaphorically speaking, that the blamer should remove the beam from his or her own eye before addressing the mote in ours. But such indirect dismissals of blame are as paradoxical as they are common. If what we have done is blameworthy, why should not anyone be in a position to hold us to account? My project explores the positionality of blame as it is manifested in indirect responses to blame; its nature; its implications for the nature of morality; and the role it plays in our everyday, as well as political, life.

Why

Positionality of blame is crucial to understanding everyday practices involving the attribution of blame. Hence, my project will address the positionality of blame in close connection with the way in which considerations about moral standing function in our everyday lives as well as in public settings, using a number of instructive studies of real-life cases. The overall aim of the project is to improve our reflective understanding of an underexplored aspect of our moral lives. One core ambition of the project is to develop a general theory of standing to blame or issue related illocutionary acts, e.g., praise. Another core ambition is to elucidate interpersonal aspects of morality such as those at stake in indirect dismissals of blame. No contemporary monograph addresses these questions.

How

I plan to write up the proposed monograph entitled "The Beam and the More: Standing to Blame and Interpersonal Morality" from 1 August 2018 to 31 December 2019. During that period I will spend some time as visiting professor in Berlin, Berkeley, and Oxford in order to discuss the topic of the monograph with some of the leading international scholars in my field. In small part my research will develop and draw on my previous work on standing to blame, e.g., chp 4 in Relational Egalitarianism (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). At the end of my grant, I hope to organise an international conference, partly with the concrete aim of getting feedback on my manuscript, partly with the aim of facilitating contact between the small but growing number of scholars working on standing to blame.

SSR

Moral standing is a central aspect of political debates. Often politicians are accused of hypocrisy and consequently their views are dismissed. But should they be? When, for instance, Al Gore criticises individual citizens for emitting too much carbondioxide, does he not have a valid point even if he himself as a very wealthy person emits much more carbondioxide than most do? And if he has a valid point, does it follow that he is in a position to hold the rest of us accountable for our irresponsible behaviour climate-wise? EAM offers penetrating reflections on positionally of blame in the public sphere. In particular, it explores some of the consequences for the public debate of the focus on the hypocrisy of politicians (Gore) as opposed to the principled political issues (climate change).