Why It is Sometimes Fair to Blame Agents for Unavoidable Actions and Omissions

American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 42, No 2, April 2005

12 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2014 Last revised: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Ken Levy

Ken Levy

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Paul M. Hebert Law Center

Date Written: January 19, 2014

Abstract

It is generally thought that ought implies can. If this maxim is correct, then my inability to do otherwise entails that I cannot be blamed for failing to do otherwise. In this article, however, I use Harry Frankfurt’s famous argument against the "Principle of Alternative Possibilities" (PAP) to show that the maxim is actually false, that I can be blamed for failing to do otherwise even in situations where I could not have done otherwise. In these situations, I do not act otherwise not because I cannot act otherwise but because I choose not to act otherwise.

Keywords: Frankfurt, PAP, responsibility, blameworthy, ought implies can, power to choose otherwise

Suggested Citation

Levy, Ken, Why It is Sometimes Fair to Blame Agents for Unavoidable Actions and Omissions (January 19, 2014). American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 42, No 2, April 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2381597 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2381597

Ken Levy (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Paul M. Hebert Law Center ( email )

420 Law Center Building
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
United States

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