Moral Responsibility and Normative Ignorance: Answering a New Skeptical Challenge


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University of Chicago Press


Philosophical doubts about moral responsibility have typically been rooted in worries about free agency in the face of causal determinism, culminating in familiar metaphysical arguments against the very possibility of moral responsibility.1 Recently, however, a skeptical argument has emerged that is simultaneously less ambitious and potentially more challenging to many of our common beliefs and practices concerning responsibility. It is less ambitious because the aim is to show not that agents cannot in principle be responsible for what they do but only that the ascription of responsibility or blame for bad actions is never warranted in any particular case.2 Since this more modest argument does not rely on the truth of determinism, however, the worries it raises for attributions of moral responsibility are likewise not mitigated by familiar compatibilist strategies for rescuing moral responsibility from the threat of determinism. The problems remain whatever one concludes about the underlying metaphysical issues.



culpable ignorance, ethics, philosophy


William J. FitzPatrick. "Moral Responsibility and Normative Ignorance: Answering a New Skeptical Challenge," Ethics, Vol. 118, No. 4 (July 2008), pp. 589-613. DOI: 10.1086/589532