Can morally ignorant agents care enough?

Philosophical Explorations 24 (2):155-173 (2021)
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Theorists attending to the epistemic condition on responsibility are divided over whether moral ignorance is ever exculpatory. While those who argue that reasonable expectation is required for blameworthiness often maintain that moral ignorance can excuse, theorists who embrace a quality of will approach to blameworthiness are not sanguine about the prospect of excuses among morally ignorant wrongdoers. Indeed, it is sometimes argued that moral ignorance always reflects insufficient care for what matters morally, and therefore that moral ignorance never excuses. Furthermore, quality of will theorists treat their skepticism about excuses for the morally ignorant as a natural implication of their approach. It is therefore unsurprising that, while many have argued for the blamelessness of certain morally ignorant agents on grounds concerning reasonable expectation, the possibility that morally ignorant agents might be blameless even according to quality of will views has not been adequately addressed. I illustrate and explain how it is possible for morally ignorant agents to display sufficient care for the morally relevant features of their wrong behavior. Thus, even if quality of will views are correct, moral ignorance sometimes excuses.

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Daniel J. Miller
West Virginia University


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