Excuse without Exculpation: The Case of Moral Ignorance

In Russ Shafer Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. pp. 72-95 (2020)
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Abstract

Can moral ignorance excuse? This chapter argues that philosophical debate of this question has been based on a mistaken assumption: namely that excuses are all-or-nothing affairs; to have an excuse is to be blameless. The chapter argues that we should reject this assumption. Excuses are not binary but gradable: they can be weaker or stronger, mitigating blame to greater or lesser extent. This chapter explores the notions of strength of excuses, blame miti- gation and the relationship between excuses and moral responsibility. These ideas open up some principled middle-ground between the two positions staked out in the literature. Moral ignorance may well excuse but it does not exculpate.

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Paulina Sliwa
University of Vienna

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