Philosophy Colloquium
Michael Zimmerman
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Willful Ignorance and Moral Responsibility

Some agents are willfully ignorant regarding the behavior in which they propose to engage; they deliberately forgo the opportunity to inquire into the features that determine the behavior’s moral status. Examples include driving a car across an international border, suspecting that—but not verifying whether—the car contains contraband; buying cheap clothing, suspecting that—but not verifying whether—it was manufactured in a sweatshop; and so on. The law (when it applies) typically holds such agents to be equally as culpable as those who engage in the same behavior but who are not ignorant of the relevant details, and legal and moral philosophers have tended to agree with this claim. In order to assess this claim, I present a paradigm case in which ignorance of wrongdoing affords its agent an excuse for that wrongdoing, and I compare and contrast this case with a paradigm case of willfully ignorant behavior. I argue that the case for equal culpability is not easily made.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Skinner 1115