Praise and prevention

Philosophical Explorations 15 (1):47-61 (2012)
Abstract
I argue that it is possible to prevent (and to be praiseworthy for preventing) an unwelcome outcome that had no chance of occurring. I motivate this position by constructing examples in which it makes sense to explain the non-occurrence of a certain outcome by referring to a particular agent's intentional and willing behavior, and yet the non-occurrence of the outcome in question was ensured by factors external to the agent. I conclude that even if the non-occurrence of an unwelcome outcome is ensured, the agent whose action explains this non-occurrence is praiseworthy for preventing the outcome. My examples are similar in important respects to Frankfurt-type cases. In the second half of the paper, I discuss the relationship between my examples and Frankfurt-type cases involving both actions and omissions. I conclude that while I may be responsible for the consequences of an action even if those consequences are unavoidable, this is not necessarily so for the consequences of omissions
Keywords Prevention  Responsibility for Consequences  Responsibility for Omissions  Frankfurt Cases
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