In his seminal essay “Freedom and Resentment,” P. F. Strawson drew attention to the role of such emotions as resentment, moral indignation, and guilt in our moral and personal lives. According to Strawson, these reactive attitudes are at once constitutive of moral blame and inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. On this basis, he concluded that relinquishing moral blame isn't a real possibility for us, given our commitment to personal relationships. If well founded, this conclusion puts the traditional free-will debate in a new light. In particular, insofar as incompatibilists believe that we can or should forgo moral blame if determinism is true, their stance may seem out of touch with our emotional reality. This essay examines Strawson's claim that the reactive attitudes are inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. Strawson says surprisingly little to support this intriguing claim, and thus far no argument for it has emerged in the literature. This essay's aim is to remedy this. Specifically, it sets out an argument for a suitably formulated version of the inseparability claim, an argument that appeals to the relationship between the reactive attitudes and other elements of our emotional lives. It then shows how this argument helps to answer an important recent challenge to Strawson's position. If this essay is right, there is good reason to doubt that the reforms envisaged by some incompatibilists, reforms to our blame-related practices, are a real possibility for us.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.