March 24 Aude Bandini (University of Montreal)
3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in MDCL Rm-1016
“Willful Ignorance and individual responsibility”
Abstract: There are numerous cases in which one seems to acquire or stick to beliefs even though they are blatantly ill-founded or wrong. For instance, despite all my previous losses, I may keep on believing that every time I gamble, the odds that I will eventually win the jackpot are increased. This might even occur to someone endowed with some fair knowledge about probabilities, and who therefore has the means to deem such a belief as thoroughly unjustified and false.
In what kind of mental state, and in particular what kind of doxastic state, is a person who believes against the evidence is philosophically perplexing issue. Yet it is morally and legally crucial since one may be held responsible for the actions performed on the basis of false beliefs, especially in case they or their outcome result into a breach of the law or of common moral standards. In such a situation, a person is most likely to claim her good faith, insisting that at that moment she had no idea she was doing something wrong or, say, harming someone else. But is that true, and how are we to assess whether it is or not? In case the subject was indeed ignorant, the kind of ignorance at stake needs to be carefully determined: for instance, the Canadian Criminal Code distinguishes between recklessness and willful ignorance (or blindness), the former being non intentional while the other would be deliberate and henceforth culpable. But is willful ignorance even possible and if it does, how would that happen?
My aim here is to scrutinize and elucidate the concept of willful ignorance in order to secure both its philosophical foundations and practical relevance.