Thought: A Journal of Philosophy


published on September 10, 2022

Robert HartmanOrcid-ID, Benjamin MathesonOrcid-ID

The Out of Character Objection to the Character Condition on Moral Responsibility

According to the character condition, a person is morally responsible for an action A only if a character trait of hers non-accidentally motivates her performing A. But that condition is untenable according to the out of character objection because people can be morally responsible for acting out of character. We reassess this common objection. Of the seven accounts of acting out of character that we outline, only one is even a prima facie counterexample to the character condition. And it is not obvious that people act out of character in that sense. We argue that whether the out of character objection succeeds ultimately depends on the unnoticed methodological commitment that cases that may not resemble human life provide good data for theorizing about moral responsibility. But even if such cases provide good data, the forcefulness of the objection is at least deflated given that its persuasive power is supposed to come from clear real-life cases.