The moral problem of worse actors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Standard

The moral problem of worse actors. / Wisor, Scott.

In: Ethics and Global Politics, Vol. 7, No. 2, 28.05.2014, p. 47.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Harvard

APA

Vancouver

Author

Bibtex

@article{a89fea51d7a34668b4632e839a9c5d98,
title = "The moral problem of worse actors",
abstract = "Individuals and institutions sometimes have morally stringent reasons to not do a given action. For example, an oil company might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing revenue to a genocidal regime, or an engineer might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing her expertise in the development of weapons of mass destruction. But in some cases, if the agent does not do the action, another actor will do it with much worse consequences. For example, the oil company might know their assets will be bought by a company with worse environmental and labor practices. Or the engineer might know her position will be filled by a more ambitious and amoral engineer. I call this the moral problem of worse actors (MPWA). MPWA gives reason, at least some of the time, to consider otherwise morally impermissible actions permissible or even obligatory. On my account, doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA remains morally objectionable even if permissible or obligatory, and this brings additional moral responsibilities and obligations to the actor. Similarly, not doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA may also bring additional (but different) moral responsibilities and obligations. Acknowledging MPWA creates considerable challenges, as many bad actors may appeal to it to justify morally objectionable action. In this paper, I develop a set of strategies for individuals and institutions to handle MPWA. This includes appeals to integrity and the proper attribution of expressive responsibility, regulatory responsibility, and compensatory responsibility. I also address a set of related concerns, including worries about incentivizing would-be bad actors, concerns about epistemic uncertainty, and the problem of mala in se exceptions.",
keywords = "normative theory; non-ideal theory; applied ethics; global justice; dirty hands",
author = "Scott Wisor",
year = "2014",
month = may,
day = "28",
doi = "10.3402/egp.v7.23524",
language = "English",
volume = "7",
pages = "47",
journal = "Ethics and Global Politics",
issn = "1654-4951",
publisher = "Co-Action Publishing",
number = "2",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - The moral problem of worse actors

AU - Wisor, Scott

PY - 2014/5/28

Y1 - 2014/5/28

N2 - Individuals and institutions sometimes have morally stringent reasons to not do a given action. For example, an oil company might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing revenue to a genocidal regime, or an engineer might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing her expertise in the development of weapons of mass destruction. But in some cases, if the agent does not do the action, another actor will do it with much worse consequences. For example, the oil company might know their assets will be bought by a company with worse environmental and labor practices. Or the engineer might know her position will be filled by a more ambitious and amoral engineer. I call this the moral problem of worse actors (MPWA). MPWA gives reason, at least some of the time, to consider otherwise morally impermissible actions permissible or even obligatory. On my account, doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA remains morally objectionable even if permissible or obligatory, and this brings additional moral responsibilities and obligations to the actor. Similarly, not doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA may also bring additional (but different) moral responsibilities and obligations. Acknowledging MPWA creates considerable challenges, as many bad actors may appeal to it to justify morally objectionable action. In this paper, I develop a set of strategies for individuals and institutions to handle MPWA. This includes appeals to integrity and the proper attribution of expressive responsibility, regulatory responsibility, and compensatory responsibility. I also address a set of related concerns, including worries about incentivizing would-be bad actors, concerns about epistemic uncertainty, and the problem of mala in se exceptions.

AB - Individuals and institutions sometimes have morally stringent reasons to not do a given action. For example, an oil company might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing revenue to a genocidal regime, or an engineer might have morally stringent reasons to refrain from providing her expertise in the development of weapons of mass destruction. But in some cases, if the agent does not do the action, another actor will do it with much worse consequences. For example, the oil company might know their assets will be bought by a company with worse environmental and labor practices. Or the engineer might know her position will be filled by a more ambitious and amoral engineer. I call this the moral problem of worse actors (MPWA). MPWA gives reason, at least some of the time, to consider otherwise morally impermissible actions permissible or even obligatory. On my account, doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA remains morally objectionable even if permissible or obligatory, and this brings additional moral responsibilities and obligations to the actor. Similarly, not doing the action in the circumstances of MPWA may also bring additional (but different) moral responsibilities and obligations. Acknowledging MPWA creates considerable challenges, as many bad actors may appeal to it to justify morally objectionable action. In this paper, I develop a set of strategies for individuals and institutions to handle MPWA. This includes appeals to integrity and the proper attribution of expressive responsibility, regulatory responsibility, and compensatory responsibility. I also address a set of related concerns, including worries about incentivizing would-be bad actors, concerns about epistemic uncertainty, and the problem of mala in se exceptions.

KW - normative theory; non-ideal theory; applied ethics; global justice; dirty hands

U2 - 10.3402/egp.v7.23524

DO - 10.3402/egp.v7.23524

M3 - Article

VL - 7

SP - 47

JO - Ethics and Global Politics

JF - Ethics and Global Politics

SN - 1654-4951

IS - 2

ER -