The Problems with Blaming


This work examines the social practice of blaming, beginning with a prominent view of the moral philosophy of blaming, the semantics of character that support this (and related) views, and the social and cultural biases we bring to the process of attributing blame. Our penchant for blaming is too often manifest in a hyper-willingness to attribute wrongdoing solely to the character of the wrongdoer, often overlooking the salience of the varied situations in which the wrongdoer finds himself. I synthesize the wealth of data, mostly from social psychology, showing that blaming actualizes our own dispositions for over-emphasizing the actor’s wicked disposition to doing wrong in a process that, on balance, fails to serve our long term goal of providing a safer society for ourselves and our children. Finally, I address the role of blaming as part of the paradox of evil, and present an outline for a different approach.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Jurisprudence | Law and Psychology

Date of this Version

December 2005