Don't know, don't kill: Moral ignorance, culpability, and caution

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108 Scopus citations


This paper takes on several distinct but related tasks. First, I present and discuss what I will call the "Ignorance Thesis," which states that whenever an agent acts from ignorance, whether factual or moral, she is culpable for the act only if she is culpable for the ignorance from which she acts. Second, I offer a counterexample to the Ignorance Thesis, an example that applies most directly to the part I call the "Moral Ignorance Thesis." Third, I argue for a principle-Don't Know, Don't Kill-that supports the view that the purported counterexample actually is a counterexample. Finally, I suggest that my arguments in this direction can supply a novel sort of argument against many instances of killing and eating certain sorts of animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-97
Number of pages39
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


  • Abortion
  • Blameless ignorance
  • Blameworthiness
  • Caution
  • Contextualism
  • Culpability
  • Moral ignorance
  • Recklessness
  • Responsibility
  • Vegetarianism

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