The situationist experiments demonstrate that most people’s behaviour is influenced by environmental factors much more than we expect, and that ordinary people can be led to behave very immorally. A number of philosophers have investigated whether these experiments demonstrate that subjects’ responsibility-relevant capacities are impeded. This paper considers how, in practice, we can assess when agents have a reduced capacity to avoid wrongdoing. It critiques some previously offered strategies including appeals to the reasonable person standard, appeals to counterfactuals and understandability of behaviour, and appeals to base rates of wrongdoing. It then proposes we should think a certain factor impeded capacities when this is the best explanation of a change in patterns of responses. With this approach in hand, I then argue that subjects in many of the situationist experiments are (mostly) excused for their actions.


blame, situationism, moral responsiblity, capacities, Milgram

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