Circumstantial ignorance and mitigated blameworthiness

Philosophical Explorations 22 (1):33-43 (2018)
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It is intuitive that circumstantial ignorance, even when culpable, can mitigate blameworthiness for morally wrong behavior. In this paper I suggest an explanation of why this is so. The explanation offered is that an agent’s degree of blameworthiness for some action depends at least in part upon the quality of will expressed in that action, and that an agent’s level of awareness when performing a morally wrong action can make a difference to the quality of will that is expressed in it. This explanation makes use of Holly Smith’s distinction between benighting and benighted actions as well as a notion developed here called “capture.”

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Daniel J. Miller
West Virginia University


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