LAW 563

The Foundations of Legal and Moral Responsibility

Law & Philosophy

There are different ways that D can be involved with, e.g., V’s death. Perhaps: V wouldn’t have died, but for what D did; or perhaps D caused V to die; or perhaps D killed V; or perhaps D (merely) increased the risk that V would die (and V did die); or perhaps D caused someone else to kill V; and so on. Of each of these actions, the seminar will ask two questions. The first is metaphysical: what does the action amount to? What, for example, does its being the case that V wouldn’t have died, but for what D did amount to? Or what does increasing the risk that something happened amount to? The second question is normative: what responsibility, whether legal or moral, do those various actions bear? If D (merely) increased the risk that V would die, to what extent, if any, is D legally or morally responsible for V’s death? Here are some examples of the sorts of cases we will be concerned with (each time focusing on Annie’s responsibility): - On Monday, Annie poisons Victor, forcing him to miss his cruise. The cruise sinks on Tuesday, with all lives lost. Victor succumbs to the poison on Wednesday. - Annie beats Victor and leaves him for dead in a field; a storm rolls in and Victor is struck and killed by lightning. - Ben is determined to play a single round of Russian roulette with Victor—with three bullets in an eight-chambered revolver. Unbeknownst to Ben, Annie loads a fourth bullet into the gun. Ben spins, aims and fires: Victor is shot dead. Via the consideration of cases like these (both abstract and real), we will examine the philosophical foundations of legal and moral responsibility.

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