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When Ignorance is No Excuse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResponsibility: The Epistemic Condition
EditorsJan Wieland, Phil Robichaud
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198779667
Accepted/In press2016
E-pub ahead of printJul 2017


King's Authors


The chapter argues that the best non-skeptical accounts of moral responsibility acknowledge that factual ignorance and mistake will diminish moral responsibility in a way that moral ignorance and mistake will not. That is because factual ignorance is often non-culpable so long as it meets certain merely procedural epistemic standards but the same is not true of moral ignorance. The chapter’s argument is that the assumption that it is gets the standards of culpability for moral ignorance wrong, and that the mistake is encouraged by the thought that culpability in general requires an instance of known wrongdoing: that acting wrongly requires de dicto unresponsiveness to one’s obligations at some stage. The chapter denies this and concludes that, therefore, ignorance and mistaken belief are indeed often perfectly good excuses—but far less often than some philosophers claim.

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