Agent-Regret, Accidents, and Respect

The Journal of Ethics 26 (3):501-516 (2022)
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Abstract

I explore how agent-regret and its object—faultlessly harming someone—can call for various responses. I look at two sorts of responses. Firstly, I explore responses that respect the agent’s role as an agent. This revolves around a feature of “it was just an accident”—a common response to agent-regret—that has largely gone ignored in the literature: that it can downplay one’s role as an agent. I argue that we need to take seriously the fact that those who have caused harms are genuine agents, to ignore this fails to allow these agents to move on. Secondly, following Sussman and MacKenzie, I explore responses that benefit the victim. I argue that we should strive to understand how to configure these responses in a way that does not blame the agent. To do this I look at the role of actions in our self-understanding, as people who have done particular things. I end by briefly considering the ways in which tort law and restorative justice might help us to understand how to appropriately respond to accidentally harming someone. I urge that we need to take this as a starting point to find a better way to respond to the agents of faultless harms.

Author's Profile

Jake Wojtowicz
King's College London (PhD)

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