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Philosophy Colloquium: “Unwitting Wrongdoers”

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Matthew Talbert (Philosophy, West Virginia University) will be giving a talk entitled “Unwitting Wrongdoers” on Friday, March 18, 2011, at 3:30 p.m. in the Eberly Boardroom.


The discussion is concerned with the degree to which a wrongdoer may be morally responsible, in the sense of being open to moral blame, for an action when she was unaware of the moral status of her behavior. I will argue that while ignorance of the consequences of one’s behavior often does undermine blameworthiness, mere normative ignorance typically does not. So, for example, while I may not be blameworthy for having unjustifiably injured you if I was unaware that my action would have that result, I would be blameworthy if I was simply unaware that unjustifiably injuring you is impermissible. First, I develop this claim in the context of rebutting a skeptical challenge to moral responsibility based on the supposition that normative ignorance excuses wrongdoers. Second, I consider several different examples of unwitting wrongdoing and formulate an account of the knowledge condition that applies to blameworthiness.

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