Blaming Ourselves and Others
McKiernan, Amy Lynn
Contemporary theories of blame say surprisingly little about self-blame. My thesis is that by examining self-blame, we learn something distinctive about the value and nature of blame as such. Through an analysis of cases of appropriate and inappropriate self-blame, including the complexities of blaming oneself for intimate partner abuse and sexual assault, I argue that although blame is not always appropriate, it does play an indispensable role in our moral lives and should not be abandoned as a moral practice. Focusing on self-blame allows us to see blame as an emotionally-charged moral address that opens up the space for reflection on one’s motivations and reasons for action. This occurs in the context of a moral exchange where the blamer calls on the blamed to account for herself. Yet, in doing so, the blamer renders herself vulnerable to the possibility that she may be mistaken. This means that the blamer must actively listen to the response from the blamed, which may take the form of an excuse, an exemption, an apology, or a realization on the part of the blamer that she did not have the proper moral standing to blame.