A Puzzle Concerning Blame Transfer

Philip Robichaud*, Jan Willem Wieland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Suppose that you are a doctor and that you prescribed a drug to a patient who died as a result. Suppose further that you could have known about the risks of this drug, and that you are blameworthy for your ignorance. Does the blameworthiness for your ignorance ‘transfer’ to blameworthiness for your ignorant action in this case? Many are inclined accept that such transfer can occur and that blameworthiness for ignorant conduct can be derivative or indirect in this way. In this paper, we motivate a new problem for transfer proponents. Extant accounts cannot satisfactorily distinguish between agents who are blameworthy for their ignorance and their resulting ignorant conduct and agents who are blameworthy for their ignorance but not for their resulting ignorant conduct. We defend a solution that we call the ‘concern constraint’ that clearly distinguishes these cases. Our solution is distinct from the much discussed foreseeability constraint (according to which blameworthiness transfers only when the ignorant action is foreseeable), and it is less restrictive than Holly Smith's quality of will condition (according to which blameworthiness never transfers). We argue that any account of derivative or indirect blameworthiness for ignorant action should take the concern constraint on board.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Issue number1
Early online date27 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'A Puzzle Concerning Blame Transfer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this