Pushing the Margins of Responsibility: Lessons from Parks’ Somnambulistic Killing

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Filippo Santoni de Sio, Ezio Di Nucci

David Shoemaker has claimed that a binary approach to moral responsibility leaves out something important, namely instances of marginal agency, cases where agents seem to be eligible for some responsibility responses but not others. In this paper we endorse and extend Shoemaker’s approach by presenting and discussing one more case of marginal agency not yet covered by Shoemaker or in the other literature on moral responsibility. Our case is that of Kenneth Parks, a Canadian man who drove a long way to his mother-in-law’s and killed her in a state of somnambulism. We support our claim about Parks’ marginal responsibility in three steps: we first deny that Parks acts involuntarily as traditionally claimed in the legal literature; we then propose to extend Shoemaker’s analysis of marginal responsibility based on quality of will so as to include two other dimensions: the moral status of the agent and the actual causal effects of their actions; finally, we distinguish Parks’ marginal responsibility from four other existing concepts: “tracing” (drunken cases), diminished responsibility (minor mental disorders), causal responsibility (Williams’ unlucky lorry driver), and moral disapproval without responsibility (bad actions by small children, animals, or machines).

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuroethics
Volume11
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
ISSN1874-5490
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Consciousness and moral responsibility, David Shoemaker, Marginal agency, Marginal responsibility, Reactive attitudes, Strawsonian theory of responsibility

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