With great power comes great responsibility - on causation and responsibility in Spider-man, and possibly Moore

Publication Year:
2011
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10014
Author(s):
Mumford, Stephen, Anjum, Rani Lill
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preprint description
Omissions are sometimes linked to responsibility. A harm can counterfactually depend on an omission to prevent it. If someone had the ability to prevent a harm but didn’t, this could suffice to ground their responsibility for the harm (Moore 2009: 304). Michael S. Moore’s claim is illustrated by the tragic case of Peter Parker, shortly after he became Spider-Man. Sick of being pushed around as a weakling kid, Peter became drunk on the power he acquired from the freak bite of a radioactive spider. When a police officer called to Spider-Man to stop an escaping burglar, which he could have done easily, he failed to act. He was through taking orders. The omission was followed by a crime. That very same burglar later robbed Peter’s own house and when challenged he shot dead Peter’s Uncle Ben. Later, Spider-Man tracked down the killer and, when seeing his face close up, the possibility of prevention dawned on him. He could have stopped this crook and had he done so Uncle Ben would still be alive. Stan Lee’s tale of power finished with a Shakespearean twist. Young Peter realised the truth of the WGPCGR-thesis: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. We too will endorse the WGPCGR-thesis. There is a close connection between our notions of moral and legal responsibility and the powers we have as causal agents. This will be particularly important when it comes to the case of omissions: where we had the power to act but failed to do so. We hope to show the connections between the notions of power, cause, act, omission and responsibility but also some of the nuances. We will do so with particular reference to Moore’s account in Causation and Responsibility (Moore 2009).

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