Epistemic Complicity

Episteme (forthcoming)
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Abstract

There is a widely accepted distinction between being directly responsible for a wrongdoing versus being somehow indirectly or vicariously responsible for the wrongdoing of another person or collective. Often this is couched in analyses of complicity, and complicity’s role in the relationship between individual and collective wrongdoing. Complicity is important because, inter alia, it allows us to make sense of individuals who may be blameless or blameworthy to a relatively low degree for their immediate conduct, but are nevertheless blameworthy to a higher degree for their implication in some larger (or another person’s) wrongdoing. In this paper, I argue that there is a distinctively epistemic kind of complicity. First, I motivate the distinction between direct and vicarious responsibility with three interlocking arguments, respectively appealing to: i) the structure of rational agency; ii) linguistic considerations; iii) the role of “principal vs. accomplice” in legal doctrine. I show how these arguments naturally extend to the epistemic domain, motivating an epistemic form of vicarious responsibility. I then examine complicity as a mechanism of vicarious epistemic responsibility. To fill this out, I engage with an epistemic analogue of the debate about the role of intention versus causal contribution in complicity. I propose a Casual Account of Epistemic Complicity, arguing that it accommodates a wide range of cases, and enables fine-grained explanations of degrees of culpability for epistemic complicity. With an adequate account of epistemic complicity on hand, we can explain what is objectionable about an important class of epistemic agent who, on an individual level, may be epistemically blameless or blameworthy to a relatively low degree, but whose relation to other individuals or collectives nevertheless makes them epistemically blameworthy to a higher degree. I explore some broader implications of this result.

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Cameron Boult
Brandon University

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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