Law and Philosophy Seminar: Responsibility, Liability, Holding to Account
Professors West and Sherman
J.D. Seminar 1268
| 3 credit hours
This course will explore conceptions of responsibility, culpability, and accountability in philosophy and the law.
On the philosophical side, we will raise questions about the nature of moral responsibility, especially as embodied in emotional attitudes of holding persons to account, through praise, blame, demands, expectations, aspirations, and the like. These emotional attitudes, what P.F. Strawson called, “reactive attitudes,” are familiar—resentment, guilt, shame, hope, and trust. Given the wide range of emotions, is there a one-size-fits all way of thinking about how we normatively hold persons to account? What is the nature of assigning responsibility to self vs. others or to collectives? What role do these emotions have in the courts? How do we assess the rationality or “fittingness” of these emotions, especially in the case of accidents, where, for example self-reproach or guilt may not track fault and yet does track a sense of caring for others who are under one’s watch.
On the legal side, we will explore the role of responsibility in the ascription of liability in tort law and culpability in criminal law, including competing accounts of the grounds for joint and several liability, collective or enterprise liability, and strict liability in tort and criminal law. Among possible topics we will likely explore are whether there are universalist patterns that can be uncovered in ascriptions of liability and fault in tort scenarios, across cultures; whether tort law in its entirety is better understood as resting on conceptions of fault and blameworthiness or on economic concepts of efficiency and accident costs; and various competing understandings of the grounds for the criminal culpability of corporations. We will also look at the role played by conceptions of responsibility in some controversial doctrinal areas, including the possibility of imposing liability for the costs associated with accidental pregnancy, as well as arguments for the criminal culpability or tort-based liability of various actors in the recent banking meltdown and crises.
The course will feature a number of outside speakers, drawn from other universities as well as from the Georgetown community.
||Room / Days / From-To
|This course is not currently scheduled.