Topic: Knowledge, Ignorance and Moral Responsibility


Philosophers take it for granted that for an agent to be morally responsible for an action they must not only possess a certain degree of freedom but also fulfil an epistemic condition; they must be aware of what they are doing and of the moral parameters of their action. While the epistemic condition has largely been seen as unproblematic for the majority of the 20th century, recent discussions have sparked interest in a variety of questions and issues: (i) What is the content of the awareness required for moral responsibility? (ii) What kind of awareness does the epistemic condition presuppose? (iii) To what extent are agents themselves responsible for fulfilling the epistemic condition? (iv) When is an agent culpably ignorant of their actions, meaning when is ignorance itself blameworthy? (v) Is it possible to be responsible for an action without fulfilling the epistemic condition?
The topic of the epistemic condition of moral responsibility is a good fit for this year’s WFAP for a variety of reasons: First, it is a fairly recent topic as most relevant contributions were made during the last two decades or so. Second, it spans multiple areas of philosophy (moral philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of mind, action theory) while at the same time focussing on a specific issue and question, thereby allowing participants to further their competence in various areas of contemporary analytic philosophy while at the same time becoming familiar with a specific strand of research. Third, the topic is flexible enough for us to adapt our focus to the specific interests of the participants; while discussions surrounding epistemic states and responsibility can be had on a very abstract theoretical level they can also be linked to recent topics in social and political philosophy.