Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nagel on Strict Liability

According to Thomas Nagel:
Strict liability may have its legal purposes, but seems irrational as a moral position.

I think that's at least half wrong. Not sure about the legal part, but the moral part is off base. I've been thinking about doing some "experiments" to see what the folk think. The data I've seen suggest that the folk buy into strict liability as a moral doctrine. It's one of the few times I think the folk are alright.


Josh May said...

I've often wondered about this myself. There's an interesting episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that instigated some of my thought here ("Opening Night" S.04 E.10). David Schwimmer loses his watch, and Larry later finds it. On the way to return it, Larry loses it accidentally and without negligence. David says he owes him a watch, but Larry of course disagrees.

I informally polled my intro class about it last year. I posed it to them as a moral issue. If I recall correctly, the overwhelming majority agreed with David. I'd say that's some support for your view (and mine)!

Clayton said...

Hey Josh,

I've done some polling of classes, too. They end up saying things that seem to suggest they take permissibility to depend (in part) upon features of the situation an agent non-culpably doesn't know about or non-culpably takes not to be relevant to deciding what to do. I don't do much exp. phi, but I'd be interested in running some tests to see what the people thought.