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The fourth lecture in the series of special invited lectures for Roots of Responsibility will be given by Professor Dana Kay Nelkin (UC San Diego), and it will be streamed online via Zoom. All are welcome, but registration is essential; if you are interested in attending, please register from the Eventbrite page.


RoR special lecture #4: Dana Kay Nelkin (UC San Diego)
Tuesday 27 October, 2020, from 16.00–18.00 UK time
This lecture will be streamed via Zoom

Quality of Will and Control:
Concepts and Conceptions

Abstract: Two big ideas have taken center stage in recent discussions of moral responsibility: the idea that whether one is responsible, blameworthy or praiseworthy for an action is a matter of the quality of will manifested in the action, and the idea that it is instead a matter of what you do and whether it is in your control.  These two ideas are often taken to be opposed to each other, appearing to give different verdicts in a range of cases from psychopaths’ crimes to expressions of implicit bias. In this paper I explore the nature of the opposition. In particular, I take up the question of whether proponents of the two groups are sometimes talking past each other by aiming to explicate distinct concepts (for example, to oversimplify, one group is interested in what it takes to be deserving of some harm or benefit while another is instead more exclusively focused on what it takes for certain moral emotions to be appropriate). In working out the answer to this question, I show how we are led to the more fundamental question of whether we can or should separate debates about desert from those about the aptness of moral emotions, appropriate changes to relationships and more.

Brief biography: Dana Kay Nelkin (Ph.D. UCLA) is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an Affiliate Professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. Her areas of research include moral psychology, ethics, bioethics, and philosophy of law. She is the author of Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility (Oxford University Press), and a number of articles on a variety of topics, including self-deception, friendship, the lottery paradox, psychopathy, forgiveness, and praise and blame. She is also a co-editor of The Ethics and Law of OmissionsThe Oxford Handbook of Moral Responsibility, and Forgiveness: New Essays.

Her work in moral psychology includes participation in an interdisciplinary research collaboration of philosophers and psychologists, The Moral Judgements Project, which brings together normative and descriptive enquiries about the use of moral principles such as the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing and the Doctrine of Double Effect. Other roles include membership of the advisory board of the UC San Diego Institute for Practical Ethics, service as the North American representative to the Society of Applied Philosophy, and on the Academic Advisory Board of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.


We encourage colleagues and especially postgraduate students to attend. Please spread the word. A poster for this lecture is shown below; versions of it can be downloaded from here.

Enquiries about the lectures can be submitted via our message form.

In each of the five years of the Roots of Responsibility ERC project, we have two special lectures by leading scholars in philosophy and law. The lineup of speakers for 2020–2021 was announced in this post.