The Negligence Standard: Political Not Metaphysical

John Gardner


This contribution distinguishes two kinds of responsibility: the basic (or ‘metaphysical’) kind that we all inescapably have as functioning human beings; and the assignable (or ‘political’) kind that connects each of us with some particular tasks, and not with others. Having explored some differences between the two, and in particular the role of law’s authority in connection with each, the discussion turns to the negligence standard, especially but not only as it figures in tort law. Recently, several philosophers have attempted to find a role for the negligence standard in the metaphysics of basic responsibility. This contribution resists that development and stands up for the traditional lawyer’s view that the negligence standard belongs to the pliable politics of assignable responsibility. Basic responsibility, it is argued, is fundamentally strict.

Published January 2017
Frequency Bi-monthly
Volume 80
Issue 1
Print ISSN 0026-7961
Online ISSN 1468-2230