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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 10$
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Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198867944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198867944.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021

Willful Ignorance and Moral Responsibility

Willful Ignorance and Moral Responsibility

(p.56) 3 Willful Ignorance and Moral Responsibility
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 10

Michael J. Zimmerman

Oxford University Press

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 that such agents have no excuse for their ignorant wrongdoing, declaring them equally as culpable as those who engage in the same behavior but who are not ignorant of the relevant details. Legal and moral philosophers have tended to agree with this claim. This chapter argues that the case for equal culpability is not easily made.

Keywords:   willful ignorance, moral responsibility, culpability, excuse, wrongdoing

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