27 September 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Blame

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Blame. As I say in my short essay this is
the reverse side of guilt.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us a link to his essay.

Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to what I wrote re the topic ¨Blame¨. I entitled my
essay ¨On Blaming.¨
See you on Sunday.


Blame is closely related to guilt. Whilst guilt is a personal feeling
for one's failure, or prescribing feeling for moral outrage, blame is a
personal feeling of moral outrage towards others. Whilst guilt describes
the moral state of others, thus ascribing responsibility to them, blame
is our value judgement that we want to ascribe moral responsibility to

There are two issues here. The first is that moral responsibility comes
in degrees of moral guilt and hence moral implication. Being guilty of
murder is not the same moral responsibility of being guilty of taking an
extra piece of chocolate from the box when your girlfriend is not looking.

The second issue is that, by blaming others it does not mean that the
others are nor ought to be guilty of anything nor that we are
necessarily right. But whatever the scenario, the opus operandi of blame
and guilt are always emotions. This means that objectivity could easily
be a victim in these value judgement decisions.

But the act of blaming does not happen in a vacuum. When we blame people
we are really saying that we want redress, punishment, or even a return
to the status quo of a wrong done to us. Somehow, blame, and guilt,
disturbs some kind of stability or harmony which affects our sense of
what is right and good.

There is, therefore, no doubt that blame is associated with a causal
effect both at the commission of the blameworthy act and the demand that
this act is redressed. We see a causal chain of events taking place
starting with the disturbance of a harmonious state to the consequences
of that state and, somehow, returning to the status quo.

I say somehow because we do not really have any evidence to suggest that
a causal chain can be reversed, at least not at the macro level. So, if
there is really no going back to the status quo, then can there really
be redress or restitution to a wrong done? This leaves us with
punishment, but even this does not take us back to the status quo, and
unlike redress or restitution, punishment for wrong done does not even
give us causal compensation.

This leads me to two observations. The first is that a moral state is
also governed by the physical state of causality. Thus, causality firmly
establishes morality in the empirical universe we are familiar with and
not in some metaphysical realm of existence.

And secondly, in the realm of morality we accept that the balance of
moral harmony can be achieved by non physical restitution. In western
society the imbalanced state of harmony after a murder is not resituated
by anything other than a punishment such as incarceration for life or
even the death penalty. And if there is any financial restitution to the
kin of the victim this would be a separate issue from the criminal and,
in this case, moral guilt.

Thus, whilst blame is a moral outrage, it is also an emotion outrage
which suggests that society needs to intervene in order not to allow the
victim to compound the issue, if there is a legitimate issue, with some
further injustice.

But if the concept of blame comes in levels of seriousness, and degrees
of moral import, as I suggest about, does this mean that all instances
of blame are instance of a serious moral judgement? And should all
immoral acts as identified by blame be an issue of guilt or moral sanction?

Very unlikely since this would be impractical given that we use blame to
identify things that happen in life; for example, I blame you for the
cold I have since it was you who insisted we go out in the cold. Compare
this with I blame the government and greedy directors of the collapse of
the economy and the suffering of the unemployed.

What is sure is that the blame game is more complex than just a right
wrong value judgement. Does this mean that morality is more complex than
simply tagging a situation good or bad? Or is that morality with it
duality has run its course and we need something more powerful to deal
with powerful moral outrage?

Best Lawrence


tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at
O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Blame

No comments: