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Article

Volume 46 • Number 4

October 2009



 

 

Ignorance and Force: Two Excusing Conditions for False Beliefs


by René van Woudenberg


Ever since at least Aristotle, it has been widely recognized that a theory of responsibility must allow for the fact that in certain conditions agents are excused for not doing what they ought to do (or for doing what they ought not to do)—and accordingly that they cannot be held responsible (and so, blamed) for what they did not, or did, do. In such conditions they are not appropriate candidates for one of what Strawson has called the "reactive attitudes" such as resentment, contempt, gratitude, and affection. Let us call such conditions excusing conditions. The main aim of this paper is to show that the very same conditions that can excuse agents for not doing what they ought to do (or for doing what they ought not to do), also can excuse them for having false beliefs. As an afterthought it is suggested that this is a reason for thinking that humans can sometimes be held responsible (and so, blamed) for what they believe.


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ISSN: 2152-1123