This paper puts forward an account of blame combining two ideas that are usually set up against each other: that blame performs an important function, and that blame is justified by the moral reasons making people blameworthy rather than by its functionality. The paper argues that blame could not have developed in a purely instrumental form, and that its functionality itself demands that its functionality be effaced in favour of non-instrumental reasons for blame – its functionality is self-effacing. This notion is sharpened and it is shown how it offers an alternative to instrumentalist or consequentialist accounts of blame which preserves their animating insight while avoiding their weaknesses by recasting that insight in an explanatory role. This not only allows one to do better justice to the authority and autonomy of non-instrumental reasons for blame, but also reveals that autonomy to be a precondition of blame’s functionality. Unlike rival accounts, it also avoids the ‘alienation effect’ that renders blame unstable under reflection by undercutting the authority of the moral reasons which enable it to perform its function in the first place. It instead yields a vindicatory explanation that strengthens our confidence in those moral reasons.
Matthieu Queloz, The self-effacing functionality of blame, Philosophical Studies volume 178, pages 1361–1379 (2021).