Sometimes, without any malice or negligence, we harm others. From killing an innocent child while driving to smashing a friend’s vase, such occurrences can lead to the emotion Bernard Williams labelled “agent-regret”. In my research I articulate the idea that we are responsible for the outcomes we create, even when we create them unintentionally. This is because our unintentional impacts on the world are central to our status as potent, but fallible, beings. I argue that our responsibility for outcomes, and its centrality to our status as potent beings, vindicates our propensity for agent-regret. I also focus how we can and should make amends when our unintentional impacts cause damage. This is the topic of my dissertation, Agent-regret in our lives, and forms the starting point of my research.
Currently, I am working on several different papers related to this. Below are some of the more-developed papers. I would be very keen to hear what others think about these papers, so please email me if you would like to see a draft of any of these papers or to discuss anything about my work.
Where these papers are under review, the titles have been changed and the abstracts condensed to help with anonymity in the journal review process.
I argue for a novel account of agent-regret that concerns the object of agent-regret, and the evaluations that we make of this object.
Our responses to agent-regret
I consider the ways in which we should respond to agent-regret, keeping in mind both the victim and the agent.
“Outcome responsibility and identity”
Bernard Williams and Tony Honoré both suggest that what we do, even accidentally, affects who we are. I argue that we can understand this in terms of biographical identity, where the things that we do affect how we see ourselves and how others react to us. I ground this in both a Strawsonian argument concerning the ingrained nature of these reactions, and on the fact that to be agents in the first place we must use fallible abilities and must react to the results of these abilities (including their failures) in sufficiently magnitudinous ways.
"Agency and Abilities"
I am in the process of writing a paper arguing that to understand agency we must understand fallible agency, especially the ways in which we are still responsible for outcomes even when they do not line up with our values or intentions.