Culpable ignorance and moral responsibility

a reply to fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinion

27 Citations (Scopus)


In the course of “Moral Responsibility and Normative Ignorance: Answering a New Skeptical Challenge,” William FitzPatrick raises and dismisses a worry about moral responsibility focusing on normative ignorance.1 FitzPatrick argues that the account of culpable ignorance developed by Gideon Rosen in his “Skepticism about Moral Responsibility” is too demanding and urges us to adopt a less stringent account, according to which ignorance can be culpable whether or not it features a knowing act or omission in its causal history. In this brief reply, I will argue that FitzPatrick asks the right question in developing his account of culpable ignorance: he asks what agents could reasonably have been expected to do to remedy their normative ignorance. But he comes up with the wrong answer: there is (in many cases, at least) nothing agents can reasonably be expected to have done to this end. There is nothing they can reasonably have been expected to do because there was nothing it was rational for them to do to remedy their normative ignorance, and it is not reasonable to blame people for failing to act irrationally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-741
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

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