Moral responsibility for actions and omissions: a new challenge to the asymmetry thesis
This paper presents a new challenge to the thesis that moral responsibility for an omission requires the ability to do the omitted action, whereas moral responsibility for an action does not require the ability to do otherwise than that action. Call this the asymmetry thesis. The challenge arises from the possibility of cases in which an omission is identical to an action. In certain of such cases, the asymmetry thesis leads to a contradiction. The challenge is then extended to recent variations of the asymmetry thesis defended by John Martin Fischer and Carolina Sartorio. Finally, a possible objection to the challenge is addressed.
KeywordsMoral responsibility Actions Omissions Asymmetry thesis Action-omission identity Counterfactual intervener
Thanks to the members of the Agency Workshop at the University of California, Riverside, Zac Bachman, Dave Beglin, Andrew Law, Meredith McFadden, Debbie Nelson, Jeremy Pober, and Jared Smith, for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Special thanks to John Fischer for several discussions of the topic of this paper.