II—Culpability, Excuse, and the ‘Ill Will’ Condition



Gideon Rosen (2014) has drawn our attention to cases of duress of a particularly interesting sort: the person's ‘mind is not flooded with pain or fear’, she knows exactly what she is doing, and she makes a clear-headed choice to act in, as Rosen says, ‘awful ways’. The explanation of why we excuse such actions cannot be that the action was not voluntary. In addition, although some duress cases could also be viewed as necessity cases and thus as justified, Rosen wisely sets aside that complicating factor by zeroing in on those cases where the action clearly is not justified. So why do we excuse in these cases, where the action is not justified and the agent acted voluntarily?

Rosen thinks the key lies in the ‘ill will’ condition, ‘the idea that an act is blameworthy only if it manifests insufficient concern or regard for those affected’. He says this is relatively uncontroversial; much of my paper is taken up with calling the ‘ill will’ condition into question. I also take issue with Rosen on just how justifications and excuses differ. I argue in favour of understanding justifications (in a context where we are asking how justifications and excuses differ) as not requiring truth, but only reasonable belief.