Does Non-Moral Ignorance Exculpate? Situational Awareness and Attributions of Blame and Forgiveness

Acta Analytica 33 (2):161-179 (2018)
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Abstract
In this paper, we set out to test empirically an idea that many philosophers find intuitive, namely that non-moral ignorance can exculpate. Many philosophers find it intuitive that moral agents are responsible only if they know the particular facts surrounding their action. Our results show that whether moral agents are aware of the facts surrounding their action does have an effect on people’s attributions of blame, regardless of the consequences or side effects of the agent’s actions. In general, it was more likely that a situationally aware agent will be blamed for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. We also tested attributions of forgiveness in addition to attributions of blame. In general, it was less likely that a situationally aware agent will be forgiven for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. When the agent is situationally unaware, it is more likely that the agent will be forgiven than blamed. We argue that these results provide some empirical support for the hypothesis that there is something intuitive about the idea that non-moral ignorance can exculpate.
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First archival date: 2017-12-26
Latest version: 3 (2017-12-29)
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Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility.McIntyre, Alison; Fischer, John Martin & Ravizza, Mark

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