Theology & Philosophy

Character, Free Will, and Responsibility


This colloquium explored the relations between freedom of the will and responsibility for character as a way of focusing on some crucial issues concerning the nature of moral agency and responsibility. It addressed questions concerning the ways in which people’s characters—their values, dispositions, policies of judgment, and patterns of responses—are voluntary, and some of the main implications for how we understand morality and politics. We considered the extent to which agents are responsible for what they are like as well as for what they do, and the bearing of this matter on our understanding of liberty, what sort of liberty matters most, and the conditions for exercising it.


From Liberty Fund

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

by By Adam Smith
Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie

The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith’s first and in his own mind most important work, outlines his view of proper conduct and the institutions and sentiments that make men virtuous. Here he develops his doctrine of the impartial spectator, whose hypothetical disinterested judgment we must use to distinguish right from…

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Additional Readings

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Terence Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1999.

Frankfurt, Harry G.. “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.” The Journal of Philosophy 1 (Jan 1971): 5-20.

Hampton, Jean, “Mens Rea” In Crime, Culpability and Remedy, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1990. 1-28.

Hampton, Jean, “Conceiving Criminal Justice” In A Theory of Criminal Justice, edited by Gross, Hyman, 3-47. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Hart, H. L. A. Punishment and Responsibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding [The Clarendon Edition]. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Nagel, Thomas. Mortal Questions. Cambridge: University Press, 1979.

Reid, Thomas. Essays on the Active Powers of Man. London: Printed for John Bell, and G. G. J. & J. Robinson, 1788.

Taylor, Charles, “Responsibility for Self” In The Identities of Persons , edited by Rorty, Amelie, 281-299. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Watson, Gary. “Free Agency.” Journal of Philosophy (April 1972): 205-220.

Williams, Bernard, “Practical Necessity” In Moral Luck, Cambridge: University Press, 1981. 124-132.