Legal Theory 22 (3-4):276-311 (2016)

Alexander Sarch
University of Surrey
Courts commonly allow willful ignorance to satisfy the knowledge element of a crime. The traditional rationale for this doctrine is that willfully ignorant misconduct is just as culpable as knowing misconduct. But it is not obvious that this “equal culpability thesis” holds across the board. Is it true in all cases of willful ignorance or only some? This is the question I investigate here. Specifically, I argue against several common versions of the equal culpability thesis before defending my own restricted version. First, I argue that the broadest version of the thesis, adopted by many courts, is overinclusive. Then I argue against several restricted versions of the thesis offered by legal theorists including Doug Husak, David Luban, and Deborah Hellman. My own account, by contrast, is premised on a duty of reasonable investigation. If my account is on the right track, the widely employed willful ignorance doctrine stands in need of reform.
Keywords Willful Ignorance  Willful Blindness  Culpability  Criminal Law  Justification
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DOI 10.1017/s1352325217000088
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References found in this work BETA

Acting for the Right Reasons.Julia Markovits - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (2):201-242.
A Sketch of a Theory of Moral Blameworthiness.Peter A. Graham - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):388-409.
Culpable Ignorance.Holly Smith - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (4):543-571.

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Citations of this work BETA

Willful Ignorance in Law and Morality.Alexander Sarch - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (5):e12490.
Willful Ignorance and Bad Motives.Jan Wieland - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (6):1409-1428.

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