Join us Thursday, April 4th, 2019, for a lunchtime lecture with Gunnar Björnsson entitled “Ways to be Implicated”.
An agent can be morally implicated in a harm even though the harm would have occurred without that agent’s contribution. Some such cases of agential redundancy seem to be well understood if we take blameworthiness to require, not that the agent controlled whether harm happens, but that the harm happened because of the agent, explained by the agent’s lack of regard for what is morally important, say. Causal-explanatory relations famously do not require counterfactual dependence.
The idea that blameworthiness for an outcome requires a causal-explanatory relation to that outcome is familiar and promising, but encounters problems with a variety of cases of collective harm and complicity. For example, a great many people share blame for the current level of climate threat, but we can’t say of each of them that the threat level is what it is because that person didn’t care enough. Likewise, when an addict gets the drug with which he ODs from one of several available dealers that would have supplied him with the very same drug had he asked them, it seems that the dealer shares at least some blame for the outcome, but it seems problematic to say that the addict’s life was ruined because of this dealer’s willingness to provide the drugs. Generally, as a range of cases show, switching a harmful process from one track to another that leads to the same outcome does not ground causal responsibility for that harm.
In this talk, Björnsson argues that both these problem cases can be accounted for without giving up the requirement of a causal-explanatory connection once we recognize that the relevant explanations can invoke the quality of will of a group of individuals. Björnsson has previously defended this idea for collective harm cases; here he argues that it extends to cases where only one member of the group is at all causally involved, and where the harm cannot be said to have happened because of that member.
Gunnar Björnsson is Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University. He works on issues in metaethics, moral responsibility, collective moral agency, and philosophy of language, with recent work appearing in, among other places, Mind, Noûs, Ethics, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Thursday, April 4th, 2019
12:30 – 2:00 PM
715-719 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Lunch will be served