Michael S. Moore defends the ideas of free will and responsibility, especially in relation to criminal law, against several challenges from neuroscience. I agree with Moore that morality and the law presuppose a commonsense understanding of humans as rational agents, who make choices and act for reasons, and that to defend moral and legal responsibility, we must show that this commonsense understanding remains viable. Unlike Moore, however, I do not think that classical compatibilism, which is based on a conditional understanding (...) of the ability to do otherwise, provides a sufficiently robust account of free will, even when it is amended as Moore suggests. I argue that free will and responsibility can be defended more robustly by observing that, at the level of agency, there can be alternative possibilities and mental causation in a stronger sense than recognized by classical compatibilism, even if physical determinism is true. Moore’s arguments could thus be strengthened by embracing this compatibilist libertarian position. At the same time, I note that, although the idea of responsibility is robustly defensible, there are independent reasons for rejecting a retributivist approach to punishment. (shrink)
The distinction between the criminal fault elements of recklessness and negligence is one of Anglo-American criminal law’s key distinctions. It is a distinction with practical significance, as many serious crimes require at least recklessness and cannot be committed negligently. The distinction is standardly marked by awareness. Recklessness requires awareness that one’s conduct carries a risk of harm. Negligence only requires that one ought to have been aware that one’s conduct carried such a risk, even if one was in fact unaware (...) of this. But should the recklessness/negligence distinction be marked by awareness of risk, or by something else? Does a defendant’s awareness of risk really have the normative significance to mark such a distinction? In this paper, I answer these questions by discussing a challenge to this ‘standard account’ of the recklessness/negligence distinction raised by the work of Antony Duff, who defends an alternative, non-awareness-based model of the recklessness/negligence distinction. I will argue that, although Duff’s alternative model fails, seeing how it goes wrong helps us see how awareness genuinely does have the right kind of normative significance to mark the distinction between recklessness and negligence. (shrink)
Accountability is a cornerstone of the governance of artificial intelligence (AI). However, it is often defined too imprecisely because its multifaceted nature and the sociotechnical structure of AI systems imply a variety of values, practices, and measures to which accountability in AI can refer. We address this lack of clarity by defining accountability in terms of answerability, identifying three conditions of possibility (authority recognition, interrogation, and limitation of power), and an architecture of seven features (context, range, agent, forum, standards, process, (...) and implications). We analyse this architecture through four accountability goals (compliance, report, oversight, and enforcement). We argue that these goals are often complementary and that policy-makers emphasise or prioritise some over others depending on the proactive or reactive use of accountability and the missions of AI governance. (shrink)
In ‘What Has Philosophy to Learn from Tort Law?’, Bernard Williams reaffirms J. L. Austin’s suggestion that philosophy might learn from tort law ‘the difference between practical reality and philosophical frivolity’. Yet while Austin regarded tort law as just another repository of time-tested concepts, on a par with common sense as represented by a dictionary, Williams argues that ‘the use of certain ideas in the law does more to show that those ideas have strength than is done by the mere (...) fact that they are part of the currency of common sense’. But what does it mean to show that ideas or concepts ‘have strength’? How does conceptual strength relate to the distinction between practical reality and philosophical frivolity? And what special features of the law are supposed to make it a better test of conceptual strength than common sense? In this chapter, I reconstruct and develop Williams’s answers to these questions. I show why Williams believes that we need to test the concepts forming the currency of common sense against practical reality as embodied by legal practice; I identify seven features of tort law that make it particularly suitable to act as such a test; I distinguish three respects in which concepts can show strength, and unpack Williams’s metaphor of microwave-resistant concepts: concepts capable of holding and presenting material for intense critical scrutiny without succumbing to it themselves; lastly, I show how philosophy can learn to identify systematically weak concepts, and the limits of otherwise valuable concepts, by considering which concepts fail the test. (shrink)
Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine conferring liability from one party onto another because the latter stands in some relationship of authority over the former. Though originally a doctrine of tort law, for the past century it has been used within the criminal law, especially to the end of securing criminal liability for corporations. Here, I argue that on at least one prominent conception of criminal responsibility, we are not justified in using this doctrine in this way. Firms are not (...) answerable for the crimes committed by their employees, because firms cannot answer as to why the crime was committed; they lack the authority to offer the employee’s reasons for action. Though this rules out respondeat superior as a general principle, I show contexts in which vicarious liability is still appropriate in the criminal law, and I respond to a number of other concerns raised by this picture. (shrink)
What is it to take responsibility for a moral failure? This chapter investigates taking responsibility for wrongdoing. It starts by considering a prominent view in the literature: that to take responsibility for a wrong is to blame oneself for it. Contrary to the self-blame account, it is argued that taking responsibility and self-blame can come apart in various ways. Instead, the normative footprint account is defended. It is suggested that wrongdoing changes the normative landscape in systematic ways: it can create (...) duties to apologize, to acknowledge the wrong done, to make amends, to respond to the wronged party’s upset. To take responsibility for a wrong is to own the normative consequences of one’s wrong. (shrink)
This is the penultimate draft of a forthcoming article. The first part surveys five perspectives in Kant’s philosophy on the quantity of retribution to be inflicted on wrongdoers, ordered by two dimensions of difference—whether they are theoretical or practical perspectives, and the quantity of retribution they prescribe: (1) theoretical zero, the perspective of theoretical philosophy; (2) practical infinity, the perspective of God and conscience; (3) practical equality, the perspective of punishment in public law; (4) practical degrees, the perspective we adopt (...) in private relations to others; and (5) practical zero, a perspective I argue is entailed by Kant’s doctrine of strict right, which is his justification of coercing compliance with public law. Kant acknowledges 1-4, but not 5. The second part draws on Kant’s account of the burden of proof in criminal law to argue that Kant is wrong to adopt 3 in responding to criminals, and that we ought to adopt 5 instead. (shrink)
Linda Radzick's new book, _The Ethics of Social Punishment_, contains an important discussion of punishment outside the context of the state. By way of celebrating this fine and welcome book, I try to probe some analytical contours concerning punishment seen from the general perspective on which Radzick and I agree. I suggest altogether abandoning the idea that (non-state) punishment needs to be inflicted by an authority. Furthermore, I insist on an account of retributivism that resists the usual accusations of barbarism (...) and bloodthirstiness. (shrink)
Analyses of factual causation face perennial problems, including preemption, overdetermination, and omissions. Arguably, the thorniest, are cases of omissive overdetermination, involving two independent omissions, each sufficient for the harm, and neither, independently, making a difference. A famous example is Saunders, where pedestrian was hit by a driver of a rental car who never pressed on the (unbeknownst to the driver) defective (and, negligently, never inspected) brakes. Causal intuitions in such cases are messy, reflected in disagreement about which omission mattered. What (...) these analyses mistakenly take for granted, is that at issue is the 'efficacy' of each omission. I argue, on the contrary, the puzzle of omissive overdetermination favors taking the act/omission distinction seriously. Factual causation, properly understood precludes omissions (i.e. omissions are not causal). Of course, the law also attaches liability to omissions, but this works differently from liability for real causes (e.g. omissions have a duty requirement, they also respond differentially to difference-making considerations). The manner in which liability attaches for omissions differs from that of straightforward causal liability, and is entirely dependent on the underlying causal structure. Attention to that structure (e.g. that the driver's hitting the pedestrian with his car is what actually caused the injury) sheds light on which omissions matter (e.g. driver's failure to press on the brakes) and why (because that failure removes a defense the driver would have to liability for the accident he caused). Other cases, where the parties' connection is entirely omissive (e.g. two physicians fail to detect independently lethal conditions), come out differently (tracking moralized elements). The analysis offered makes better sense of both why omissive determination cases are puzzling and how to resolve them. (shrink)
This paper investigates, from a philosophical perspective, whether high functioning autists are legally responsible for the crimes they may commit. We do this from the perspective of the Croatian legal system. According to Croatian Criminal Law, but also criminal laws adopted in many other countries, the legal responsibility of the person is undermined due to insanity when two conditions are satisfied. The first may be called the incapacity requirement. It states that a person, when committing the crime, suffers cognitive or (...) volitional incapacities or limited capacities that are relevant for exculpation. The second, we may call the mental disorder requirement, which states that these exculpatory incapacities are due to the presence of a mental disorder. In this paper we focus on the incapacity requirement. The review of the studies on executive functions deficits associated with high-functioning autism suggests that many autists should not be held categorically responsible for the crimes they may commit. Nonetheless, we argue that these impairments in executive functions generally do not provide an unqualified excuse. (shrink)
In this review, I summarize Elinor Mason’s Ways to be Blameworthy and raise some worries concerning three aspects of her book: her account of the knowledge condition on moral responsibility, her notion of blame and its justification as well as Mason’s conception of extended blameworthiness.
Tommie Shelby argues that social injustice undermines the moral standing states would have, were they just, to condemn criminal wrongdoers. He makes a good argument, but he does not go far enough to reject the blaming function of punishment. Shelby’s argument from “impure dissent,” in particular, helps to demonstrate the limits of blame in criminal justice.
Sometimes persons are legally responsible for reckless behavior that causes criminal harm. This is the case under the newly drafted provisions of the U.S. Model Penal Code (MPC), which holds persons responsible for “simple” rape (nonconsensual sex without proof of force or threats of force), where the offender recklessly disregards the risk that the victim does not consent. In this paper we offer an explanation and corrective critique of the handling of reckless rape cases, with a focus on the U.S. (...) criminal justice system, although our analysis is applicable more broadly. We argue that a wider group of reckless rapists are criminally responsible than is captured by the MPC and claim criminal punishment of reckless rapists must be justified by looking to both moral desert and instrumental aims achieved by criminal punishment. Part of the law’s job is to communicate and enforce society’s expectations regarding unacceptable behavior. In punishing reckless rape, we are not just giving people what they deserve, but also reinforcing and shaping norms regarding sexual behavior. (shrink)
This paper argues that there are compelling grounds for thinking that coercive indoctrination can defeat or mitigate moral culpability in virtue of being a form of non-culpable moral ignorance. That is, I defend a two-tier account such that what excuses an agent for a wrongful act is the agent’s ignorance regarding the moral quality of their act; and what excuses the defendant for their ignorance is that coercion or manipulation deprived the defendant of a fair opportunity to avoid that ignorance. (...) I further argue that criminal defense theory would better track moral culpability were it to broaden existing defenses whose desert-base is moral ignorance—such as insanity or mistaken-belief self-defense—to include non-culpable ignorance due to diminished situational control. In this way, criminal law can plausibly recognize a defense of coercive indoctrination without postulating any new categories of defense. (shrink)
What conditions on a person’s knowledge must be satisfied in order for them to be morally responsible for something they have done? The first two decades of the twenty-first century saw a surge of interest in this question. Must an agent, for example, be aware that their conduct is all-things-considered … Continue reading Epistemic Conditions of Moral Responsibility →.
This article focuses on justified responses to “immoral” behavior and crimes committed by patients undergoing neuromodulation therapies. Such patients could be held morally responsible in the basic desert sense—the one that serves as a justification of severe practices such as backward‐looking moral outrage, condemnation, and legal punishment—as long as they possess certain compatibilist capabilities that have traditionally served as the quintessence of free will, that is, reasons‐responsiveness; attributability; answerability; the abilities to act in accordance with moral reasons, second‐order volitions, or (...) Deep Self. Recently leading compatibilist neuroethicists added the condition of not feeling alienated from desires motivating a person's action. This article argues against such attempts to determine conditions under which patients undergoing neuromodulation should be subject to negative reactive attitudes and legal punishment. Compatibilism should not be used to justify basic desert moral responsibility and legal punishment. Instead, a new way of thinking about the function of moral responsibility attribution is proposed for patients with neuromodulation. Their compatibilist capabilities should serve as important indicators for determining appropriate, forward‐looking courses of action, such as quarantining and restorative treatment, to ensure the public safety and well‐being of the patients. (shrink)
In this paper, I outline a proposal for assigning liability for autonomous machines modeled on the doctrine of respondeat superior. I argue that the machines’ users’ or designers’ liability should be determined by the manner in which the machines are created, which, in turn, should be responsive to considerations of the machines’ welfare interests. This approach has the twin virtues of promoting socially beneficial design of machines, and of taking their potential moral patiency seriously. I then argue for abandoning the (...) retributive approach to machine crime in favor of prioritizing restitution. I argue that this shift better conforms to what justice demands when sophisticated artificial agents of uncertain moral status are concerned. (shrink)
This article explores how externalism about reasons for action contributes to understanding the relations between agents and norms. In order to do this, firstly, the distinction between internalism and externalism is presented; secondly, some flaws of internalism regarding the objectivity of duties are analysed; lastly, externalism is defend-ed from the criticism according to which the principle «ought implies can» cannot be explained.
A popular way to try to justify holding defendants criminally responsible for inadvertent negligence is via an indirect or ‘tracing’ approach, i.e. an approach which traces the inadvertence back to prior culpable action. I argue that this indirect approach to criminal negligence fails because it can’t account for a key feature of how criminal negligence should be (and sometimes is) assessed. Specifically, it can’t account for why, when considering whether a defendant is negligent, what counts as a risk should be (...) assessed relative to the defendant’s evidence. (shrink)
Accomplice liability makes people guilty of crimes they knowingly helped or encouraged others to commit, even if they did not commit the crime themselves. But this method of criminalizing aiders and abettors is fraught with problems. In this chapter, I argue that accomplice liability in the criminal law should be replaced with a system in which agents are criminalized on the basis of their individual contributions to causings of harm—the larger the contribution, the more severe the crime—regardless of whether those (...) contributions were made “through” the actions of another person. Not only would this avoid the issues associated with making the guilt of accomplices parasitic on the guilt of the principal, it would also fill gaps in the law concerning other cases to which accomplice liability does not apply. (shrink)
In matters of responsibility, there are often two sides to the transaction: one party who holds another responsible, and the other who takes responsibility for her conduct. The first side has been closely scrutinized in discussions of the nature of responsibility, due to the influential Strawsonian conjecture that an agent is responsible if and only if it is appropriate to hold her responsible. This preoccupation with holding responsible – with its focus on the second-personal perspective and on responses like blame (...) – contrasts with a relative neglect of the perspective of the agent and the role that she has to play by taking responsibility. I aim to show that this neglect is undeserved – that taking responsibility is both distinct in character from holding responsible and fundamentally important in its own right. I develop a conception of taking responsibility that reveals an under-explored dimension of our responsibility practices. (shrink)
This paper examines whether an agent becomes liable to defensive harm by engaging in a morally permissible but foreseeably risk-imposing activity that subsequently threatens objectively unjustified harm. It first clarifies the notion of a foreseeably risk-imposing activity by proposing that an activity should count as foreseeably risk-imposing if an agent may morally permissibly perform it only if she abides by certain duties of care. Those who argue that engaging in such an activity can render an agent liable to defensive harm (...) ground this liability in the luck egalitarian thought that we may justly hold individuals responsible for the consequences of their voluntary choices. Against this, I argue that a luck egalitarian commitment to holding people responsible cannot, by itself, ground liability to defensive harm. It can help ground such liability only against the backdrop of a distributively just society, and only if further considerations speak morally in favour of attaching certain well-defined costs to individuals’ risk-imposing choices. I conclude by suggesting that if an account of liability applies robustly across distributively just and unjust contexts alike, then what grounds an agent’s liability is plausibly not her responsibility for threatening objectively unjustified harm, but her culpability for doing so. (shrink)
This paper introduces the Special Issue on Recklessness and Negligence. It highlights the main issues and controversies that surround these concepts and then briefly introduces each of the papers that comprise the Special Issue.
In the wake of high profile and recent events of blatant privacy violations, which also raise issues of democratic accountability as well as, at least potentially, undermining the legitimacy of current local and international governance arrangements, a rethinking of the justification of the right to privacy is proposed. In this paper, the case of the violation of the privacy of a bullied autistic youngster and the consequent prosecution of 3 Google executives will be discussed first. We will then analyse the (...) arguments made by both academic experts and pundits who agree with Google’s claim that if the first sentence had been left unchallenged, it would have opened the floodgates to several other jurisdictions that would as a consequence have used it as a pretext to increase control on the internet, jeopardising in such a way free speech, which has been seen so far as an inalienable right which should not be censored. Finally, by going beyond the sentences and their immediate contexts, we will propose a theoretical justification of our analysis. Our main claim is that the value of the right to privacy is based on the argument that its violation would undermine citizens’ capacity to participate effectively in democratic politics. (shrink)
Over the past few centuries the free will debate has largely turned on the question of whether or not the truth of the thesis of determinism is compatible with the relevant form of freedom that is required for moral responsibility. This way of approaching the free will problem was fundamentally challenged by P.F. Strawson in his hugely influential paper “Freedom and Resentment,” which was published in 1962. In this paper Strawson pursues a line of argument that can be found in (...) the work of several major figures in the “moral sense school,” such as David Hume and Adam Smith. The strategy Strawson employs is one that begins with a complex and subtle description of the attitudes and practices that are constitutive of moral responsibility as we observe it in human life. According to Strawson, both sides in this debate fail to identify the real foundations of moral responsibility, which rests with the fabric of our human emotional psychology. When we start from inside these natural, human commitments, Strawson maintains, we are better placed to generate a viable and pertinent theory of human freedom as it relates to the requirements of moral responsibility. (shrink)
Michael McKenna’s Conversation and Responsibility is an ambitious and impressive statement of a new theory of moral responsibility. McKenna’s approach builds upon the strategy advanced in P.F. Strawson’s enormously influential “Freedom and Resentment” (which was published in 1962). The account advanced aims to provide Strawson’s theory with the sort of detail that is required to fill significant gaps and respond to a wide range of criticisms and objections that have been directed against it. ....Conversation and Responsibility belongs on the top (...) shelf of any set of readings devoted to the contemporary discussion of moral responsibility. All readers, whatever their philosophical orientation may be, will find it both challenging and rewarding. Whether in the end one endorses the conversational model or not, there can be no doubt that this is a contribution that significantly advances our overall understanding of these important and complex matters. (shrink)
Gathering together an impressive array of legal scholars from around the world, this book features essays on Jeremy Bentham's major legal theoretical treatise, Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence, reassessing Bentham's theories of law as well as his impact on jurisprudence. While offering a suggestive picture of contemporary Bentham studies, the book provides a thorough examination of concepts such as legal discourse, legal norms, legal system, and subjective legal positions. The book compares Bentham's approach with other landmark (...) theories and the works of major legal philosophers including Austin, Hart and Kelsen, and explores Bentham's treatise through major trends in contemporary legal thought, such as the imperative theory of law, deontic logic, Scandinavian and American legal realisms, the pure theory of law, and critical legal thought. Resisting any apologetic stance, the book elucidates how consistent with Bentham's all-encompassing project of utilitarian reform 'Limits' turns out to be, and how this sheds light on contemporary modes of governance. The book will be great use and interest to scholars and students of contemporary jurisprudence, legal theory, 19th century philosophy, and public law. (shrink)
Drink driving causes great suffering and material destruction. The alcohol interlock promises to eradicate this problem by technological design. Traditional counter-measures to drink driving such as policing and punishment and information campaigns have proven insufficient. Extensive policing is expensive and intrusive. Severe punishment is disproportionate to the risks created in most single cases. If the interlock becomes inexpensive and convenient enough, and if there are no convincing moral objections to the device, it may prove the only feasible as well as (...) the only justifiable solution to the problem of drink driving. A policy of universal alcohol interlocks, in all cars, has been proposed by several political parties in Sweden and is supported by the National Road Administration and the 2006 Alcohol Interlock Commission. This article assesses two possible moral objections to a policy of universal interlocks: (i) that it displaces the responsibility of individual drivers and (ii) that it constitutes a paternalistic interference with drivers. The first objection is found unconvincing, while the second has only limited bite and may be neutralized if paternalism is accepted for the sake of greater net liberty. Given the expected technological development, the proposed policy seems a commendable health promotion measure for the near future. (shrink)
David Hume is widely recognized as providing the most influential statement of the “compatibilist” position in the free will debate — the view that freedom and moral responsibility can be reconciled with (causal) determinism. The arguments that Hume advances on this subject are found primarily in the sections titled “Of liberty and necessity”, as first presented in A Treatise of Human Nature (2.3.1-2) and, later, in a slightly amended form, in the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (sec. 8). Although there is (...) considerable overlap in content between these two statements of Hume's position, there are also some significant differences. This includes, for example, some substantial additions in the Enquiry discussion as it relates to problems of religion, such as predestination and divine foreknowledge. While these differences are certainly significant they should not be exaggerated. Hume's basic strategy and compatibilist commitments in both works remain the same in their essentials.. (shrink)
Parallel moral luck problems exist in three different normative domains: criminal law, tort law, and conventional moral thinking. In all three, the normative status of an actor’s conduct seems to depend on matters beyond the actor’s control. Criminal law has historically imposed greater punishment on the murderer who kills his intended victim than on the identically behaved would-be murderer whose shot fortuitously misses. Tort law imposes liability on the negligent driver who injures someone, but no liability if, through good fortune, (...) the negligence injures no one. And, as BernardWilliams and Thomas Nagel have famously argued, conventional moral thinking often attributes greater blame to an actor for wrongful conduct if that conduct ripens into a terrible event than if it fortuitously causes no harm at all. This Article distinguishes two different dimensions of responsibility and then uses this distinction to explain the problem in all three areas. One dimension is called "fault-expressing responsibility": it is a matter of the degree to which one’s acts constitute conduct that can express one’s character or faultiness. A second dimension of responsibility is called "agency-linking responsibility." In this dimension, the degree to which a person is responsible for some event is dependent upon whether that event is an action of that person. Responsibility can differ in the agency-linking dimension even if it remains the same in the fault-expressing dimension. (shrink)
Liberalism is based on the juxtaposition of consent to coercion. Autocracy and slavery were based on coercion whereas today’s political democracy and economic “employment system” are based on consent to voluntary contracts. This article retrieves an almost forgotten dark side of contractarian thought that based autocracy and slavery on explicit or implicit voluntary contracts. The democratic and antislavery movements forged arguments not simply in favor of consent but arguments that voluntary contracts to alienate aspects of personhood were invalid—which made the (...) underlying rights inalienable. Once understood, those arguments apply as well to today’s self-rental contract, the employer-employee contract. (shrink)
In this paper I pursue two closely related objectives. First, I articulate and describe the nature and character of Hume's theory of punishment. Second, in light of this account, I offer an assessment of the contem- porary interest and value of Hume's theory. Throughout my discus- sion I emphasize the relevance and importance of Hume's views on moral responsibility to his account of punishment.1 More specifically, I argue that Hume seeks to develop an account of punishment on the foundation of (...) a naturalistic theory of responsibility - that is, a theory which draws our attention to the role of moral sentiment in this sphere.2 Although this naturalistic aspect of Hume's theory of punishment has been largely overlooked by commentators, I maintain that it is, nevertheless, precisely this aspect of Hume's theory that is especially interesting from a contemporary pers. (shrink)