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Beyond the Moral Influence Theory? A Critical Examination of Vargas’s Agency Cultivation Model of Responsibility

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Abstract: This paper repudiates Manuel Vargas’s attempt to supplant the traditional moral influence theory of responsibility (MIT) with his ‘agency cultivation model’ (ACM). By focusing on fostering responsiveness to moral considerations, ACM purports to avoid the chief pitfalls of MIT. However, I contend that ACM is far less distinctive than it initially appears and so possesses all of MIT’s defects. I also assail Vargas’s counterfactual test for assessing whether a wrongdoer can respond to moral considerations. It is argued that the counterfactual test is epistemically redundant because it can only be fleshed out once we have settled the issues it is supposed to resolve. Moreover, it tacitly inverts the relation between freedom and responsibility—we cannot attribute free will to wrongdoers unless we have already established their blameworthiness. The upshot of this is that enquiries into an agent’s freedom are irrelevant to the ethics of holding her responsible.



Article, Free will, Moral responsibility, Agency cultivation model, Moral influence theory, Consequentialism, Moral agency, Manuel Vargas, Building Better Beings

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The Journal of Ethics

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Springer Netherlands