My current research is focused primarily on the relationship between responsibility and awareness, where the guiding question is when and why blameless ignorance excuses. The answer to this question has implications for the epistemic condition on tracing, whether culpable ignorance can mitigate blameworthiness, and skepticism about blameworthiness more generally. I have also written on the relationship between voluntariness and responsibility as well as the ethics of blame. Below are some papers I’ve published on these topics.
Circumstantial Ignorance and Mitigated Blameworthiness
Philosophical Explorations (forthcoming)
It is intuitive that circumstantial ignorance, even when culpable, can mitigate blameworthiness for morally wrong behavior. In this paper I suggest an explanation of why this is so. The explanation offered is that an agent’s degree of blameworthiness for some action (or omission) depends at least in part upon the quality of will expressed in that action, and that an agent’s level of awareness when performing a morally wrong action can make a difference to the quality of will that is expressed in it. This explanation makes use of Holly Smith’s distinction between benighting and benighted actions as well as a notion developed here called capture.
Reasonable Foreseeability and Blameless Ignorance
Philosophical Studies (2017) 174(6): 1561-1581
This paper draws attention to a fundamental problem for a version of the tracing strategy defended by Gideon Rosen 2004 and Fischer and Tognazzini 2009. I argue that versions of the tracing strategy that require reasonable foreseeability (rather than actual foresight) are in tension with the view that blameless ignorance excuses. A stronger version of the tracing strategy (i.e., one that requires actual foresight) is consistent with the view that blameless ignorance excuses and is therefore preferable for those tracing theorists who wish to continue maintaining that it does.
Hypocrisy and the Standing to Blame
(with Kyle G. Fritz)
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (2018) 99: 118-139 (2015 online)
Hypocrites are often thought to lack the standing to blame others for faults similar to their own. Although this claim is widely accepted, it is seldom argued for. We offer an argument for the claim that nonhypocrisy is a necessary condition on the standing to blame. We first offer a novel, dispositional account of hypocrisy. Our account captures the commonsense view that hypocrisy involves making an unjustified exception of oneself. This exception-making involves a rejection of the impartiality of morality and thereby a rejection of the equality of persons, which we argue grounds the standing to blame others.
This paper focuses on a non-volitional account that has received a good deal of attention recently, Angela Smith's rational relations view. I argue that without historical conditions on blameworthiness for the non-voluntary non-volitionist accounts like Smith’s are (i) vulnerable to manipulation cases and (ii) fail to make sufficient room for the distinction between badness and blameworthiness. Towards the end of the paper I propose conditions aimed to supplement these deficiencies. The conditions that I propose are tailored to suit non-volitional accounts of blameworthiness. Unlike some volitional historical conditions on blameworthiness, the conditions that I propose do not require that the person have exercised voluntary control (e.g., via choices or decisions) over the acquisition of her attitudes or values.