Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David Palmer

Committee Members

David Reidy, Eldon Coffman Jr., Aleydis Van de Moortel


We call something a failure when it falls below a certain standard. Failures are common, and a portion of them are due to human activities. Human failures range from failing to pass a driving test to failing to save a drowning child. We tend not to hold people responsible simply for failures as such, but only for those for which agents are at fault—it usually means that we deem that agent as the “origin” or “cause” of the failure. In other words, failures of an agent do not necessarily indicate that the agent is at fault. There is at least one other condition—possessing control—that is required in order to hold an agent responsible for a failure. But is possessing control really a necessary condition for moral responsibility? This question is pressing because there seem to be cases—such as various types of omissions, akrasia, and moral attitudes—in which we hold agents responsible even though they do not obviously possess control over these things, or, at least, we are not certain about what kind of control agents possess over them. In brief, the purpose of my dissertation is to defend a control-based account of moral responsibility that applies not merely to voluntary actions, but also to challenging cases of omissions, akrasia, and moral attitudes. That is, unlike what non-volitionalists advocate, possessing control is a necessary condition for finding agents at fault for their failures, and thus for holding them responsible. In chapter 1, I introduce the difficulties that the control assumption encounters, as well a few conceptions that are relevant for clarifying what moral responsibility entails. In chapters 2, 3, and 4, I analyze the kinds of control that satisfy the control condition of moral responsibility in various cases of omissions, akrasia, and moral attitudes. In chapter 5, I turn to argue for what I call the sufficient control account of moral responsibility. I then conclude the project by responding to possible objections and related issues.

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