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Is it wrong for someone to be held accountable for their ignorance if their actions accidentally cause harm to others? Factual Ignorance can be defined as when someone does something morally wrong because they don’t know or realize that the actions they committed were wrong. Should Susie from the prompt be morally excused for her carelessness of mistaking cyanide for sugar to be put into her friend Jane’s drink and accidentally poisons her? There are some cases that factual ignorance can sometimes work as a moral excuse is proven to be the key argument on this topic.
According to the Ignorance and Blame Lecture Slide, Moral Responsibility for one’s actions is factored by two conditions. The first condition is the Control Condition explaining that “a person can be held responsible only for things that are up to them’ (Bernecker 2) is saying that a person is held accountable for their actions depending on the choices they make with the committed intention. The second condition is the Knowledge Condition explaining that ‘an action can only be responsible to the extent that its agent knows what they are doing’ is saying that even if Susan is the one who mistakes cyanide for sugar, that does not mean that she intended to harm Jane but to give her tasteful cup of tea. This even factors out the Control Condition for Susan’s case because even if Susan picked the cyanide thinking it was sugar, her choice was sugar, not the cyanide to poison her friend. Control Condition and Knowledge Condition play a huge role in determining that there are some cases that factual ignorance can sometimes work as a moral excuse because, for factual ignorance to work as a moral excuse, the person must not choose between harming somebody intentionality and/or must be unaware of the factor variable that leads to the harming of that person.
I believe that factual ignorance can work as a moral excuse some of the time if the person who causes the harm towards another didn’t have the intention to commit the morally wrong act. In High School, my English Teacher told the class a story about a girl who was allergic to peanut butter and was kissed by her boyfriend who before the kiss had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and was unaware of the fact that his girlfriend is allergic to peanut butter. The girlfriend was sent to the hospital because of the kiss and the boyfriend got away with the harmful act because even if he harmed her, it wasn’t his intention to harm her but to show her love and affection instead. I believe that the boyfriend should be morally excused for his actions because it was never his intention to harm her and he didn’t know that she was allergic to peanut butter. How is it fair that the boyfriend should be punished for wanting to show his girlfriend that he loves her and is probably mad and/or sad that he harmed her unintentionally?
I do believe that some things should not be a moral excuse for factual ignorance like when somebody harms somebody else and doesn’t realize what they are doing to that person is wrong. Like this for example, when a drunk driver hits someone with his car, he chooses to intoxicate himself and chooses not to have a sober driver to drive him home. If the drunk driver hits someone with his car, he is responsible for that action because it was the bad choices he made that cost a person his/her life without realizing it. Even if the drunk driver makes an excuse that he was intoxicated for his actions meaning he was not right in the head when performing the morally wrong action, ‘a person is blameworthy for morally wrong behavior if and only if it expresses a morally objectionable attitude or belief’ (Bernecker 11) explaining that if he’s not going to accept what he did was wrong and decides to blame it on something else, he shouldn’t be qualified for being morally excused of factual ignorance because he chooses to drink and didn’t bother to get a sober driver. The boyfriend who kissed his peanut-allergic girlfriend while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich beforehand and Susan have the right to a moral excuse of factual ignorance instead of the drunk driver because even if the boyfriend and Susan didn’t know the hidden variable that causes harm towards another person, their intentions were good, but the drunk driver intentions were bad and he doesn’t have the right to call his decision a moral excuse of factual ignorance. By comparing the situations on these stories, it seems a person shouldn’t have the right to call their actions a moral excuse of factual ignorance if they had a wrongful idea beforehand and choose to do it.
Moral Ignorance is when someone fails to realize their actions/behavior are harmful due to the inadequacy of the situation, but is it consider an excuse? If the person’s actions are considered harmful due to their moral ignorance, then it’s not excusable. However, if the moral ignorance of a person is due to its factual ignorance, then there’s a possibility that it can be excusable. According to the Ignorance and Blame Lecture Slide, the Blameless Ignorance Principle explains, ‘if a person is blameless for their ignorance, then the person is blameless for acting from that ignorance” (Bernecker 4) describing that there are times where a person’s Moral Ignorance can work as an excuse some of the time and it’s not the person’s fault since maybe the moral ignorance of their ignorant behavior could be taught to them and they couldn’t see anything else differently. By the Blameless Ignorance Principle, there are some cases that Moral Ignorance can be excused like some cases for moral excuses of Factual Ignorance.
If one does not believe that one’s action is wrong, and one has not mismanaged one’s beliefs, is one then blameless for acting wrongly? If one does not believe that one’s action is wrong and one has not mismanaged one’s beliefs, then they are considered blameworthy, not blameless for acting wrongly according to the expanded detail on the Ignorance and Blame Lecture Slide of the Objectionable Attitude Principle and the Reasonable Expectation Principle. According to the Ignorance and Blame Lecture Slide for the expanded detail on the Objectionable Attitude Principle, ‘even people who are blamelessly ignorant of the wrongness of their behavior’ like the one who doesn’t believe that one’s action is wrong ‘can be blameworthy for it if their actions express a morally objectionable attitude or belief’ (Bernecker 12) meaning that even if the person who committed the wrongdoing denies it, he is still considered blameworthy for their actions and thus is not blameless for acting wrongly. According to the Ignorance and Blame Lecture Slide for the expanded detail on the Reasonable Expectation Principle, it’s ‘reasonable to expect a person to avoid something only if the person could avoid it, given their beliefs and cultural setting’ (Bernecker 8) meaning in this case that even if the one who’s has their beliefs mismanaged can avoid moral responsibility due to stating they were taught wrong, they would be blameworthy for their actions because they still commit the morally wrong act. So one is not blameless for acting wrongly even if there they don’t believe one’s action is wrong and one’s beliefs are mismanaged according to the expanded details of the Objectionable Attitude Principle and the Reasonable Expectation Principle.
There are some cases that factual ignorance can sometimes work as a moral excuse is proven to be the key argument on this topic. From the points that I made from my paragraphs, factual ignorance can work as a moral excuse depending on if your intentions and your choices are never meant to harm somebody. The only way that a factual ignorance cannot work as a moral excuse is when you believe there was a chance that your actions could cause harm and you still go along with it, your morally responsible and shouldn’t be morally excused. I believe that as long as your intentions and your choices are never meant to harm and you don’t have a negative thought about it, you should be able to be morally excused if something went wrong.
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