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Taking Responsibility for Negligence and Non-Negligence

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/09/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Criminal Law and Philosophy
Number of pages22
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date21/09/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Negligence reminds us that we often do and cause things unawares, occasionally with grave results. Given the lack of foresight and intention, some authors argue that people should not be judged culpable for negligence. This paper offers a contrasting view. It argues that gaining control (over our agency, over a risky world) is itself a fundamental responsibility, with both collective and individual elements. The paper underlines both sides, focussing on how they relate as we ascribe responsibility or culpability. Following the introduction, Section 2 (“Culpability and Control: The Negligence Sceptics”) argues that conscious awareness is neither necessary nor sufficient for control. Control is not a property of deliberate choice, so much as a practical achievement. Section 3 (“Non-negligence as a Shared Task”) stresses the collective aspects of non-negligence: creating knowledge about risks, structuring environments to guard against them, and developing standards of care. Failings in the collective task, rather than lack of individual control, mean it can often be unfair to pin culpability on a single individual. Section 4 (“Culpability for Negligence Revisited”) suggests that a basic duty of a responsible person is to acknowledge the ways in which we may do more or less than we mean to, often in ways that create risks. It then sketches an approach to culpability as part of a collective exercise: as we take responsibility for standards of care, and for our own and others’ agency.