No Such Thing as Accident: Rethinking the Relation between Causal and Moral Responsibility

Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 28:371-397 (2015)
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Abstract

According to the conventional view, causal and moral responsibility have a strict hierarchical relationship. Determining causal responsibility comes first; then we sort through the factors to which we have assigned causal responsibility and determine which, if any, should be assigned moral responsibility too. Moral inquiry accordingly stands not only apart but also above causal inquiry. But I am going to argue that this way of looking at causal and moral responsibility is a mistake. Rather than being separate and independent inquires with different purposes and concerns, I am going to argue that finding causal responsibility actually entails finding moral responsibility even when there is no evidence of what we would call traditional fault. Indeed, I am going to argue we cannot find someone causally responsible without finding them morally responsible too.

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Mark R. Reiff
University of California, Davis

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