Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 2, Summer 2023

Bengt Brülde, U. Martin Persson, Lina Eriksson, Fredrik Hedenus
Pages 103-129

Whose Fault Is It?
An Account of Complicity in Unstructured Collective Harms

Many of the major challenges facing global society are unstructured collective harms (e.g., global warming): collective in the sense that they arise as the result of the actions of, or interactions among, multiple agents, and unstructured in the sense that there is no coordination or intention to cause harm among these agents. But how should we distribute moral responsibility for these harms? In this paper, an answer is proposed to this question. This answer builds on but develops existing proposals by drawing together literatures that speak to different aspects of the question. First, it is argued that the notion of causal contribution needs to be broadened to include the idea of causation as production. Second, it is discussed how the voluntariness and foreseeability conditions are best interpreted in this context. Third, literature on moral taint is drawn to introduce additional objective (external) criteria.