Attention as a condition for moral responsibility

23 March, 2023

Besedin A. 
Filosofskii zhurnal | Philosophy Journal. 2023. VOL. 16. № 1. PP. 146-159.

The article analyzes an epistemic condition for moral responsibility. The condition is taken in a dispositional form: the attribution of responsibility is appropriate only if the agent was in an epistemic position suitable for obtaining knowledge relevant to moral re­sponsibility. The choice of a dispositional interpretation of the epistemic condition is jus­tified with the help of four thought experiments showing that the actualist understanding of this condition is unacceptable. The main question of the article concerns this epistemic position. The article presents N. Levy’s criticism of the concept of responsibility that rests on the thesis that we never find ourselves in the epistemic position required for moral responsibility. Two lines of response to Levy’s criticism are briefly considered: the Reasonable Expectation Approach and the Attributionist Approach. With the help of the analysis of a thought experiment, the condition of basic knowledge of a morally significant situation is revealed. Further analysis of this condition exposes the condition of attention for moral responsibility. Attention refers to the ability to redirect one’s cogni­tive resources to different tasks. The moral significance of attention is demonstrated: inat­tention as an excusing factor is investigated, the connection between attention and such phenomena of moral life as care and respect is shown. The article shows that the require­ment of attention implies certain control over attention. The condition of attention pro­vides an answer to Levy’s criticism, according to which we have no control over the psy­chological states leading to actions. This is not the case since control of attention plays this role. In conclusion, the prospects for further research are discussed: the study of the concept of control over attention, the connection of moral responsibility and conscious­ness, and examination of the condition of attention in the context of virtue epistemology.