Cartoon by Bernard Kassoy, "No Coercion?: The Board of Education, armed with a charge of “Insubordination” gun, offers teachers the opportunity to “volunteer” for extracurricular activities"
Image: No Coercion?: The Board of Education, armed with a charge of “Insubordination” gun, offers teachers the opportunity to “volunteer” for extracurricular activities. Bernard Kassoy. 1951. Cornell University Library. Artstor Public Collections Content.

 

[Update: 3 January 2021] A button has been added, which takes you to a Zoom page where you can register to attend this seminar. 

 

Here is the schedule for the ERC research seminar, which runs from January to March 2021. The seminar will be led by Professor John Hyman and Dr Maximilian Kiener (RoR Research Fellow; The Queen’s College, Oxford). We will meet on Tuesdays, from 16.00 to 18.00, virtually via Zoom (the possibility of convening physically will be reviewed). Notifications for individual meetings will appear in the Events section. This is a graduate seminar (PHIL0174), which may be taken for credit, but others (at UCL, Oxford, and elsewhere) are welcome to attend.

If you would like to attend, please register by clicking the button below. Once approved, you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting location, and a password to access the seminar page on UCL Moodle:

REGISTER to attend the seminar

 

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Overview of topics

  1. Agency
  2. Intentional and Voluntary Action
  3. Responsibility and Liability
  4. Responsibility for Attitudes
  5. Responsibility and Regret
  6. Responsibility and Negligence
  7. Collective Responsibility
  8. The Act requirement
  9. Justification and excuses
  10. Consent

 

Introductory Readings

  • Hyman, John. 2015. Action, Knowledge, and Will. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Chap. 1 “Agency and the Will” & “Appendix: The Modern Theory of the Will.”
  • Hart, H. L. A. 2008 (1967). “Postscript: Responsibility and Retribution.” In In Punishment and responsibility: essays in the philosophy of law (2nd edn.). Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.

 

Topics, questions, and readings for individual meetings

Each topic has two readings: the first is the ‘target’ piece, which we will focus on during the meeting, while the second is a ‘background’ reading.

[1] Tuesday 12 January. Agency

  • Questions: What is an act? Is an act a bodily movement? Is every act intentional? 
  • Readings:
    • Hyman, John. 2015. Action, Knowledge, and Will. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Chap. 2 “Action and Integration.”
    • Frankfurt, Harry G. 1978. “The problem of action.” American Philosophical Quarterly Repr. in The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1998).

[2] Tuesday 19 January. Intentional and Voluntary action

  • Questions: What distinguishes acts which are voluntary from those which are not? Is there such a thing as voluntary passivity? Are all intentional acts voluntary, or vice-versa?
  • Readings
    • Hyman, John. 2015. Action, Knowledge, and Will. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Chap. 4 “Voluntariness and Choice.”
    • Anscombe, G. E. M. 1963. Intention. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. §§5–17, 45–49.

[3] Tuesday 26 January. Responsibility and liability

  • Questions: What is the relationship between responsibility and liability? Does Duff’s distinction between responsibility and liability apply equally to law and morality?
  • Readings:
    • Duff, R. A. 2007. Answering for Crime: Responsibility and Liability in the Criminal Law. Hart. Chap. 1 “Responsibility and Liability.”
    • Hart, H. L. A. 2008 (1967). “Postscript: Responsibility and Retribution.” In Punishment and responsibility: essays in the philosophy of law (2nd edn.). Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.

[4] Tuesday 2 February. Responsibility for attitudes

  • Questions: Can I be morally responsible for my psychological states or attitudes, if they cannot be acquired voluntarily? What about my emotions and my character?
  • Readings:
    • Smith, Angela M. 2005. “Responsibility for Attitudes: Activity and Passivity in Mental Life.” Ethics115: 236–71.
    • Adams, Robert Merrihew. 1985 “Involuntary Sins.” The Philosophical Review 94 (1): 3–31.

[5] Tuesday 9 February. Responsibility and regret

  • Questions: What is agent-regret? Is it ever justified, or rational, to feel it in response to something that happened beyond one’s control? What does it reveal about the relationship between responsibility, the capacity to guide conduct by reasons, and acts that are expressive of who we are as responsible agents?
  • Readings:
    • Raz, Joseph. 2011. “Being in the World.” Chap. 12 in From Normativity to Responsibility, 227–54. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.
    • Williams, Bernard. 1981. “Moral Luck.” Chap. 2 in Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers 1973–1980, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP.

[There will be no meeting on Tuesday 16 February, as this is during the UCL reading week.]

[6] Tuesday 23 February. Responsibility and Negligence

  • Questions: Should liability to criminal punishment be conditional on the presence of a mental element? Is negligence a state of mind? Does the Rational Functioning Principle provide a better explanation of responsibility for negligence than the Guidance Principle?
  • Readings:
    • Raz, Joseph. 2011. “Responsibility and the Negligence Standard.” Chap. 13 in From Normativity to Responsibility, 255–69. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.
    • Hart, H. L. A. 2008. “Negligence, Mens Rea, and Criminal Responsibility.” Chap. 6 in Punishment and responsibility: essays in the philosophy of law (2nd edn.), 136–57. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.

[7] Tuesday 2 March. Collective Responsibility

  • Questions: Who is morally responsible when large groups or collectives cause harm? Can only individual people be morally responsible or also a collective entity as a whole? Can one become morally responsible for something simply in virtue of belonging to a certain group?
  • Readings:
    • Isaacs, Tracy. 2011 “Collective Moral Responsibility” 2 in Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP.
    • Narveson, Jan. 2002. “Collective Responsibility.” The Journal of Ethics 6 (2): 179–98.

[8] Tuesday 9 March. The act requirement

  • Questions: Does criminal responsibility depend on the performance of a voluntary act? What is a voluntary act, in the relevant sense? Is there a convincing rationale for the requirement?
  • Readings
    • Duff, R. A. 2007. Answering for Crime: Responsibility and Liability in the Criminal Law. Hart. Chap. 5 “Criminally Responsible for What? (2) Action and Crime.”
    • Moore, Michael S. 1993. Act and Crime. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Chap. 1 “Introduction” and Chap. 2 “The Doctrinal Unity of the Act Requirement.”

[9] Tuesday 16 March. Justifications and excuses

  • Questions: What is the difference between a justification and an excuse? Is one concept more basic than the other? How do justifications and excuses exculpate, or mitigate culpability?
  • Readings:
    • Gardner, John. 1998. “The Gist of Excuses.” Buffalo Criminal Law Review1 (575). Repr. in Offences and Defences: Selected Essays in the Philosophy of Criminal Law (Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2007).
    • Austin, J. L. 1956–7. “A Plea for Excuses.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society57: 1–30. Repr. in Philosophical Papers (3rd edn.; eds. J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock; Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 1979).

[10] Tuesday 23 March. Consent

  • Questions: What is the ‘moral magic’ of consent? What makes consent either valid or invalid? What is the relation between consent and moral responsibility or criminal liability?
  • Readings
    • Dougherty, Tom. 2020. “Coerced Consent With an Unknown Future.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1–21.
    • Hurd, Heidi M. 1996. “The Moral Magic of Consent.” Legal Theory 2 (2): 121–46.

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