Rewriting Rights: Making Reasonable Mistakes in a Social Context


ACLS Fellowship Program




When agents make mistakes about whether they received consent, or whether they faced a threat that justified imposing defensive harm, we must make a determination about whether their mistake was reasonable. If it was, we indemnify the mistake-maker; if it wasn’t, we hold them responsible. This book demonstrates that it is unjust to approach these determinations as a set of evaluations of individuals. We must instead take a social approach, characterizing what agents owe each other by reference to the norms that best coordinate the activity of the whole network of similarly situated people who aim to avoid making or suffering any mistakes. It develops a social signaling account of an appropriate coordination norm, and articulates the moral constraints that ensure such a norm will distribute the risks and costs of mistakes fairly, providing the content of what agents’ rights require of each other given our actual epistemic limitations.