n-1 Guilty Men

In The Future of Normativity. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

We discuss the difficulties that arise for standard reasons-first theories by looking at a case in which an agent who seems initially to know that n individuals are responsible for wrongdoing learns that n-1 are guilty. On the one hand, if this agent can retain their initial knowledge, it seems the agent should be able to believe in at least n-1 cases that the relevant subject is culpable, blame this agent for wrongdoing, and punish accordingly. Since we're not primarily interested in objective rightness, it doesn't seem right that only n-1 should be punished, blamed, or believed to be guilty since there needn't be any discernible differences between the cases that could explain why they should be handled differently. We argue that standard reasons-centred theories don't have the tools necessary for handling this kind of case. We also argue that the most familiar reasons-free approaches get this kind of case right but cannot handle variant cases where an agent has to rely on naked statistical evidence. We propose that the best approach will combine the tools of reasons-centred and decision-theoretic approaches. We need the reasonologists to help us understand what objective suitability would consist in and the decision-theorists to tell us how to cope with uncertainty about the presence or absence of objective right-making (and wrong-making) features.

Author Profiles

Clayton Littlejohn
Australian Catholic University
Julien Dutant
King's College London

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