Happy 2013 to all! Thanks so much to Thomas for this great opportunity, and I look forward to your input. I thought I’d ease into the new year by asking for your thoughts on the following thesis and intuitions about an example. Here is the thesis:
If one is blameworthy for an action then one ought not have done it.
Here is an example that might seem to challenge the thesis: you and I are taking an exam next to each other, and I’ve brought only one pencil while you have brought 20. Mine breaks, and I look over to you with a pleading face. You just shake your head at my lack of planning and go back to work.*
Is it appropriate for me to blame you in this case?
Did you do anything wrong, or anything you ought not have done?
If your answers are “yes” and “no,” then we seem to have a counterexample to the thesis. I’m inclined to defend the thesis on the grounds that you really ought to have loaned me your pencil, despite my lacking any right to it. But I realize that not everyone shares this view. Thoughts welcome.
*Thanks to David Shoemaker for the details of the case, and attribution to Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Michael McKenna for related cases.