Unwitting Wrongdoers and the Role of Moral Disagreement in Blame

In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility Volume 1. Oxford University Press (2013)
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Abstract

I argue against the claim that morally ignorant wrongdoers are open to blame only if they are culpable for their ignorance, and I argue against a version of skepticism about moral responsibility that depends on this claim being true. On the view I defend, the attitudes involved in blame are typically responses to the features of an action that make it objectionable or unjustifiable from the perspective of the one who issues the blame. One important way that an action can appear objectionable to us is that it expresses a judgment with which we disagree about the significance of the interests of those affected by the action. A morally ignorant wrongdoer’s actions may express such judgments even if it is not her fault that she is unaware of the moral status of her behavior, and even if it would be unreasonable to expect her to be aware of its status.

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Matthew Talbert
West Virginia University

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