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How Much Should a Person Know? Moral Inquiry & Demandingness

Anna Hartford

Abstract

An area of consensus in debates about culpability for ignorance concerns the importance of an agent’s epistemic situation, and the information available to them, in determining what they ought to know. On this understanding, given the excesses of our present epistemic situation, we are more culpable for our morally-relevant ignorance than ever. This verdict often seems appropriate at the level of individual cases, but I argue that it is over-demanding when considered at large. On the other hand, when we describe an obligation to know that avoids over-demandingness at large, it fails to be sufficiently demanding in individual cases. The first half of this paper is dedicated to setting up this dilemma. In the second half, I show that it cannot be easily escaped. Finally, I suggest that this dilemma impedes our ability to morally appraise one another’s ignorance, and even our own.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the organisers and participants at the ‘Demandingness in Practice’ workshop, who provided invaluable feedback on an early draft of this paper. Thank you also to the editors and reviewers of this issue, and particularly to one anonymous reviewer who went into such generous detail in their comments; my debts to you were too many to acknowledge within the paper.

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Published Online: 2019-05-03
Published in Print: 2019-05-27

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