Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 791–805 | Cite as

The Imprudence of the Vulnerable

Article

Abstract

Significant numbers of people believe that victims of violent crime are blameworthy in so far as they imprudently place themselves in dangerous situations. This belief is maintained and fuelled by ongoing social commentary. In this paper I describe a recent violent criminal case, as a foil against which I attempt to extract and refine the argument based on prudence that seems to support this belief. I then offer a moral critique of what goes wrong when this argument, continually repeated as social commentary, is left unchallenged. The effect of failing to challenge this repeated argument is the view, held by many, that the vulnerable are imprudent; indeed, they are believed negatively responsible (partly or wholly) for the violence wrought upon their person. My central claim is that public declarations of blame are morally problematic partly because they focus responsibility away from perpetrators, and partly because they harm vulnerable citizens who, as a result of internalising such public blame, suffer unnecessary constraints on their liberty.

Keywords

Vulnerability Prudence Crime Blameworthiness Responsibility 

References

  1. Acock A, Ireland N (1983) Attribution of blame in rape cases: the impact of norm violation, gender, and sex-role attitude. Sex Roles 9:179–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bargh J, Chartrand T (1999) The unbearable automaticity of being. Am Psychol 54:462–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartlett J, Kotrlik J, Higgins C (2001) Organizational research: determining appropriate sample size in survey research. Inf Technol Learn Perform 19:43–50Google Scholar
  4. Brison S (2002) Aftermath: violence and the remaking of a self. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  5. Deutsch M, Gerard H (1955) A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgement. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 51:629–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Donat P, D’Emilio J (1992) A feminist redefinition of rape and sexual assault: historical foundations and change. J Soc Issues 48:9–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dunbar E (2006) Race, gender, and sexual orientation in hate crime victimization: identity politics or identity risk? Violence Vict 21:323–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Haney C, Banks W, Zimbardo P (1973) Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. Int J Crim Penol: 69–97Google Scholar
  9. Hemphill J, Hare R, Wong S (1998) Psychopathy and recidivism: a review. Legal Criminol Psych 3:139–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Home Office (2009) Violence against women opinion polling. http://www.huiselijkgeweld.nl/doc/english/violence-against-women-poll_2009.pdf. Accessed 14 November 2013
  11. Janoff-Bulman R (1992) Shattered assumptions: towards a new psychology of trauma. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Kahneman D (2011) Thinking fast and slow. Farrar Strauss and Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Kahneman D, Tversky A (1973) On the psychology of prediction. Psychol Rev 80:237–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kahneman D, Tversky A (1974) Judgement under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Science 185:1124–1131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kaspar D (2011) Can morality do without prudence? Philosophia 39:311–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kleinke C, Meyer C (1990) Evaluation of rape victim by men and women with high and low belief in a just world. Psychol Women Q 14:343–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Korsgaard C (1989) Personal identity and the unity of agency: a Kantian response to Parfit. Philos Public Aff 18:101–132Google Scholar
  18. Opotow S (1990) Moral exclusion and injustice: an introduction. J Soc Issues 46:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pollard P (1992) Judgements about victims and attackers in depicted rapes: a review. Brit J Soc Psychol 3:307–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schlenker B, Weigold M, Hallam J (1990) Self-serving attributions in social context: effects of self-esteem and social pressure. J Pers Soc Psychol 58:855–863CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Smart J, Williams B (1973) Utilitarianism: for and against. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Snow N (1994) Self-blame and blame of rape victims. Public Aff Q 8:377–393Google Scholar
  23. Wong S, Gordon A, Gu D (2007) Assessment and treatment of violence-prone forensic clients: an integrated approach. Brit J Psychiatry 190:s66–s74CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plunkett Centre for Ethics (SVHA), Department of PhilosophyACUDarlinghurstAustralia

Personalised recommendations