Each of us deserves not to be wronged. Plausibly, the basis for this (the “desert-basis” in the lingo) is something like each of us being a human person (maybe the relevant feature is a bit different from this, but let’s suppose it is this). But what is the deserving here — what does it come to?
One candidate is this: each of us ought (or is normatively required) to refrain from wronging others. But this idea seems to conflate two different things: (1) deserving not to be wronged (this being the case: it ought not to be the case that one is wronged) and (2) it being the case that each person ought not to wrong one. Another way of putting this problem: there is a mismatch between the two sorts of normative features, making the second the wrong sort of thing for analyzing or explaining the first. (Yet another decent, if less precise, way of making this point: M deserving X more comes to M getting X being valuable in a particular important sort of way than it comes to it being the case that each of us ought to provide M with X.)
(I think Sher is vulnerable to this sort of “normative mismatch objection” to many, though perhaps not all, of his accounts of various different sorts of desert. For example, in attacking what he calls the “expressive” views of merit-based or reward-for-merit-type desert, he focuses on fitting attitude response to merit (e.g., appreciation, gratitude, etc.) and how this is expressed in rewarding behavior, not on fitting response to people not exhibiting a fitting response to merit (e.g., some sort of impersonal dissatisfaction at the state of affairs) — on appropriate response to M having feature F, not on appropriate response to M appropriately getting X. In general, he does not seem to focus on the value of, or our appropriate reaction to, the state of affairs of M, or any given similarly-situation person, getting X or appropriately getting X.)
My broad, schematic (and no doubt incomplete) idea for the right analysis of desert in general is this: M deserves X on account of M having feature F = it being appropriate (for anyone) to exhibit the right sort of response in attitude to M getting X (or M not getting X). This is a straight-up, no-frills fitting-attitudes schemata. Though it requires some tweaking, the general idea is clear enough and gets at the thrust of a certain sort of approach. I want to test it out here (and fill it in appropriately) for deserving not to be wronged.
On this general approach to desert, one deserving not to be wronged consists in something like this: it being appropriate (for each of us) to react to any given person being wronged (schematically, any person M not getting X) by experiencing a certain kind of moral anger. (The full account would probably speak to similar positive reactions to people not being wronged in certain contexts — to M getting X — but I’ll set this aside in order to simplify. And because I think the negative reaction is more central or important.) What sort of moral anger?
I think it would be impersonal in two ways. First, unlike resentment, the anger would not be appropriate specifically to the person experiencing the anger being the person who is wronged. Second, it would be directed primarily at the state of affairs of some person or other being wronged (and only because of this would it be directed toward this or that specific person being wronged). In this way, it would be unlike the typical sort of empathy-driven anger or resentment one feels when a friend or family member is wronged. Also and as a consequence: such anger would be distinct from anger directed specifically toward wrongdoers (the kind that motivates condemnation and punishment).
I’m thinking that this might generalize, at least to core or paradigm cases of desert, through a more general sort of similarly impersonal satisfaction and dissatisfaction (likely of a moral sort; I suspect that part of having this sort of attitude is representing the state of affairs that is its object as unjust). If the object is similar in that it consists in ways other than wronging each other that people might appropriately or inappropriately treat or react to each other, then cases of people deserving natural or happenstance benefit or suffering for their virtues/vices would not be included. However, if the impersonal-moral-anger-similar attitudes fit a broader similarity-class of objects, then these sorts of cases might be included, after all (in principle, this issue would be settled by figuring out the precise content of the standards that are internal to the relevant sorts of impersonal positive and negative reactive attitudes). These are two different ways of filling-in my basic schematic analysis or account. I’m sure there are others, especially after necessary or advisable bells and whistles are added.
However, for now, I’m more interested in the local question of what is good or bad about this approach to deserving not to be wronged specifically. I make the assumption, common nowadays but rejected by Sher at least in some of his arguments, that the fittingness or appropriateness of fitting attitudes — e.g., fear fitting situations of immediate threat to one’s welfare — is a genuinely normative relationship. (In fact, I’m inclined to think that there is no normative pressure favoring behaviors without normative pressure favoring relevant attitudes, that, in this sense, normative pressure favoring attitudes, most naturally expressed in terms of appropriate — objectively appropriate or correct, rationally appropriate — response, is fundamental. But that is a whole nuther thang!) Is this wrong? Does my “normative mismatch” objection to certain sorts of accounts of deserving not to be wronged (or desert generally) seem like a good one? Any thoughts on other virtues or vices of my approach to what deserving not to be wronged comes to?