restricted access Chapter 6: Responsibility and Blame
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Chapter 6 Responsibility and Blame Responsibility is a unique concept ...You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. Hyman G. Rickover I enjoyed the position I was in as a tennis player. I was to blame when I lost. I was to blame when I won. And I really like that, because I played soccer a lot too, and I couldn’t stand it when I had to blame it on the goalkeeper. Roger Federer Up to now I have mainly viewed causality as an all-or-nothing concept. Although that position is mitigated somewhat by the notion of graded causality discussed in Chapter 3, and by the probabilistic notion of causality discussed in Section 2.5, it is still the case that either A is a cause of B or it is not (in a causal setting (M,  u)). Graded causality does allow us to think of some causes as being better than others; with probability, we can take a better cause to be one that has a higher probability of being the cause. But we may want to go further. Recall the voting scenario from Example 2.3.2, where there are 11 voters. If Suzy wins the vote 6–5, then all the definitions agree that each voter is a cause of Suzy’s victory. Using the notation from the beginning of Section 2.1, in the causal setting (M, u) where V1 = · · · = V6 = 1 and V7 = · · · = V11 = 0, so each of the first six voters voted for Suzy, and the rest voted for Billy, each of Vi = 1, i = 1, . . . , 6 is a cause of W = 1 (Suzy’s victory). Now consider a context where all 11 voters vote for Suzy. Then according to the original and updated HP definition, it is now the case that Vi = 1 is a cause of W = 1 for i = 1, . . . , 11. But intuitively, we would like to say that each voter in this case is “less” of a cause than in the case of the 6–5 victory. Graded causality doesn’t help here, since it does not allow us to compare degrees of causality across different causal settings; we cannot use graded causality to say that a voter in the case of a 6–5 win is a “better” cause than a voter in the case of an 11–0 win. To some extent, this problem is dealt with by the modified HP definition. In the case of the 6–5 victory, each voter is still a cause. In the case of the 11–0 victory, each voter is only 169 170 Chapter 6. Responsibility and Blame part of a cause. As observed in Example 2.3.2, each subset J of six voters is a cause; that is, ∧i∈J Vi = 1 is a cause of W = 1. Intuitively, being part of a “large” cause should make a voter feel less responsible than being part of a “small” cause. In the next section, I formalize this intuition (for all the variants of the HP definition). This leads to a naive definition of responsibility, which nevertheless captures intuitions reasonably well. Like the definition of causality, this definition of responsibility assumes that everything relevant about the facts of the world and how the world works is known. Formally, this means that the definition is relative to a causal setting (M,  u). But this misses out on an important component of determining what I will call here blame: the epistemic state. Consider a doctor who treats a patient with a particular drug, resulting in the patient’s death. The doctor’s treatment is a cause of the patient’s death; indeed, the doctor may well bear degree of responsibility 1 for the death. However, if the doctor had no idea that the treatment had adverse side effects for people with high blood pressure, then he should perhaps not be blamed for the death. Actually, in legal arguments, it may not be so relevant what the doctor actually did or did not know, but what he should have known. Thus, rather than considering the doctor’s actual epistemic state, it may be more important to consider what his epistemic state should have been. But, in any case, if we are trying to determine whether the doctor is to blame for the patient’s death, we must take into account the doctor’s epistemic state. Building on the de...


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