Moral ignorance and the social nature of responsible agency

Tandf: Inquiry:1-28 (forthcoming)
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In this paper I sketch a socially situated account of responsible agency, the main tenet of which is that the powers that constitute responsible agency are themselves socially constituted. I explain in detail the constitution relation between responsibility-relevant powers and social context and provide detailed examples of how it is realized by focusing on what I call ‘expectations-generating social factors’ such as social practices, cultural scripts, social roles, socially available self-conceptions, and political and legal institutions. I then bring my account to bear on the debate about the exculpatory potential of moral ignorance. I show that a prominent position in this debate – the position that denies that moral ignorance exculpates – is grounded on an individualistic and acontextualist conception of moral capacities, moral cognition, and blameworthiness, and that this conception leads those philosophers who endorse it to make a number of questionable claims regarding the ability of ordinary agents to overcome their moral ignorance and the culpability they bear for the latter. I conclude by indicating how my socially situated account addresses the issue of moral ignorance.
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Archival date: 2019-09-23
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