Wrongful Observation

Philosophy and Public Affairs 47 (1):104-137 (2019)
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According to common-sense morality, agents can become morally connected to the wrongdoing of others, such that they incur special obligations to prevent or rectify the wrongs committed by the primary wrongdoer. We argue that, under certain conditions, voluntary and unjustified observation of another agent’s degrading wrongdoing, or of the ‘product’ of their wrongdoing, can render an agent morally liable to bear costs for the sake of the victim of the primary wrong. We develop our account with particular reference to widespread modern phenomena such as so-called ‘revenge porn’, ‘up-skirting’, and the online observation of sexual assault and murder. On our account, observation is not a sui generis basis of liability. Instead, observation grounds liability in virtue of manifesting three, more general, grounds of liability. First, observation can compound a primary wrong, making that wrong more harmful for the victim. Second, observation can constitute degrading treatment of the victim. Third, in certain cases observation can enable primary wrongdoing. We conclude by discussing the conditions under which observing degrading wrongs might be morally justified.
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Archival date: 2019-08-20
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