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The ethics of clumsiness and ignorance

UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life Lecture Series


In February 2020 the UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life hosted a series of public lectures at MoLI, each looking at ethical questions that impact personal, public and professional spheres. The lectures featured prominent researchers in ethics from University College Dublin, and were held in MoLI’s Old Physics Theatre.

If somebody harms me deliberately, I blame them. Now for blame to ‘work’, I have to assume that they understood enough of what they were doing, and that they were free enough to refrain from doing it. In other words, I assume they chose to harm me. But what if they are ignorant and therefore did not understand what they were doing? Sometimes I blame them, sometimes I might excuse them for their ignorance. How does that work? And what if they are clumsy, or insensitive, or unimaginative, or just plain stupid? How much can I blame them for such cognitive defects? 

This lecture on The Ethics of Clumsiness and Ignorance delivered by Professor Christopher Cowley on 18 February 2020 will looks at these kinds of fault, both in morality and in the criminal law. Christopher Cowley teaches the philosophy of law and the philosophy of autobiography at the UCD School of Philosophy.

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