A dialectical model of moral address

David Botting


A relatively new view in reactive attitudes theory regards the reactive attitudes and their expression communicatively, and argues that what characterizes the agents who are their targets is a capacity for engaging in a dialogical exchange of moral reasons. Moral competence is evaluable in terms of linguistic competence, with our attributions of responsibility depending ultimately on what people can acceptably say in a certain kind of moral discourse.

McKenna (2012) regards the entire process from the commission of the action to the attitude after reflection on analogy with the unfolding of a conversation he calls a “moral responsibility exchange.” I wish to consider whether the critical discussion of the pragma-dialecticians can serve as a dialogue model of this conversation. If it can, then the rules of critical discussion and the material starting-points together determine whether an agent should be held responsible by the other party in the discussion.

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