The purpose of this essay is to identify Michael McKenna’s plans for the first half of chapter six (consisting of two sections) in Conversation and Responsibility are to guide us through a desert thesis for blame through his conversational theory of moral responsibility and to also identify the harmfulness in blame. I will explain different desert theses that McKenna portrays in the first section of the chapter and then I will talk about the harm in blaming in the second section.
In section one, McKenna attempts to find a desert thesis for blame. In the previous chapter, we learn there are two interpretation of deserved blame, the axiological claims and the deontological claims; the former is the study of value whereas the latter deals with duties. An axiological claim is to say it is good to blame someone and a deontological claim is to say it is right to blame someone. He also claims that the consequences of deserved blame are important considerations, but more importantly he questions how one can make the judgment of what is to be deserved of a wrongdoer.
He presents an example about a man who is in solitary confinement for several years. He is restricted from social contact and closed off from the world, resulting in loneliness and alienation. A consequentalist interpretation would indicate that the loneliness and alienation supplies the man with a negative value or disvalue, and McKenna adds a numerical scale by suggesting the man has a negative value of one hundred units. McKenna then gives us a different case where a woman is raped, resulting in lifelong emotional scars. The negative value caused by the lifelong emotional scars can be said to be a thousand units. He then tells us that the man is in solitary confinement because he is the one who raped the woman. According to consequentalist though, there is only more negative value because causing harm to a wrongdoer only causes the numerical units of value to add up to 1100 units, eventually causing a higher negative value than it otherwise would have been. McKenna says one who believes a desert thesis is rooted from axiology would reject the consequetalist view. The man’s suffering does have a negative value but the world is better off with him in solitary confinement than if he did not suffer from raping the woman.
I argue for the axiological consideration that it is intrinsically good if the man is kept in solitary confinement due to his act of rape. The consequentalist’s view, that confining him and making him suffer will only aggregate the overall negative value of the world, could take into account the possibility of the man raping more women if he is not confined; however Scanlon and Wallace do not take that into account. In that case, the negative value of the victims increases at a drastic pace since the consequences of rape for the victims are a thousand negative units each. Keeping the man confined is only a hundred units and thus is a better option if the concern is to reduce the overall negative value.
I will now introduce the first and most basic desert thesis that McKenna proposes but does not quite defend: it is a noninstrumental good that, in return for a harm wrongly inflicted, a wrongdoer is harmed. He calls this the AD or axiological-desert thesis. Although this thesis claims that a wrongdoer is to be punished, there isn’t proportionality. The punishment for the wrongdoer is not the same as the action, as in the previous case of rape, he committed. The axiological desert thesis does not say the rapist should get raped. This would just cause more negative value and no good to society if the rapist is not confined; this would cause more negative value in the sense that he will have lifelong emotional scars but also that since the punishment was that he be raped and not confined, there is the possibility of him raping more people. Hence, there is the possibility of the overall negative value...