Pamela Hieronymi is a Professor of Philosophy at UCLA. She has published on moral responsibility and on our control over our own states of mind. She is currently bringing these two strands together into a book, Minds that Matter, in order to unwind the traditional problem of free will.
In this lecture titled "Defensiveness, Making Excuses, and the Blame Game," Professor Hieronymi will discuss how public life has recently seen some spectacular displays of defensiveness and seemingly unending iterations of the blame game. Yet, this set of issues has not received much attention in the philosophical literature. Here she begins to rectify the relative neglect. She will first distinguish problematic cases of “making excuses” from simply offering excuses. Isolating the problem cases is more delicate and interesting than you might initially suppose; it will require distinguishing two very different kinds of “negotiation:” a cooperative sort and one that amounts to a power-struggle. She will then consider the broader power struggle of which “making excuses” is often a part: “the blame game.” Better understanding the blame game lets us see that, once it has begun, it is very hard to abort or even exit. It is easy to find yourself with no good options. She offer no solutions, but only the hope that naming and sorting can be a helpful first step—or at least offer the solace of better understanding your predicament.
Please note: Limited seats are available for Harvard affiliates in Science Center E. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about attending in person.
The Kissel Lecture in Ethics is named for the late Lester Kissel, a graduate of Harvard Law School and longtime benefactor of Harvard University's ethics programs and activities.