Traction without Tracing: A Solution for Control‐Based Accounts of Moral Responsibility

European Journal of Philosophy 22 (3):463-482 (2014)
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Abstract

Control-based accounts of moral responsibility face a familiar problem. There are some actions which look like obvious cases of responsibility but which appear equally obviously to lack the requisite control. Drunk-driving cases are canonical instances. The familiar solution to this problem is to appeal to tracing. Though the drunk driver isn't in control at the time of the crash, this is because he previously drank to excess, an action over which he did plausibly exercise the requisite control. Tracing seeks to show that an agent's responsibility for some outcome can be traced back to a prior exercise of control which caused the later lack of control. These and related cases have led many theorists to treat tracing as an indispensable component of any adequate theory of responsibility. This paper argues that tracing is in fact dispensable. I offer two strategies for explaining responsibility in drunk-driving cases : responsibility can either be exhaustively modeled on recklessness, or exhaustively modeled on negligence. Neither explanation, however, relies on tracing. If I'm right, the case for tracing is seriously weakened.

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Matt King
University of Alabama, Birmingham

Citations of this work

Explaining (Away) the Epistemic Condition on Moral Responsibility.Gunnar Björnsson - 2017 - In Philip Robichaud & Jan Willem Wieland (eds.), Responsibility - The Epistemic Condition. Oxford University Press. pp. 146–162.
Minding Negligence.Craig K. Agule - 2022 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 16 (2):231-251.
Moral Responsibility.Andrew Eshleman - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Place of the Trace: Negligence and Responsibility.Samuel Murray - 2020 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (1):39-52.

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References found in this work

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.

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