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Source: Jeffrey Brand, Philosophy of Law (2013), p. 157 Bottom - 158 Top.

Negligence plays a central role in tort law (see Chapter 5, sec. 3), but only a peripheral role in criminal law. There are, however, some crimes of pure egligence. The M[odel] P[enal] C[ode], for example, includes several such crimes: negligent omicide, assault with a deadly weapon, and criminal mischief with danger- us means.3 But the very idea of punishing someone for negligence strikes ome observers as unjust. After all, if you are merely negligent, not reckless, hen by definition you are unaware that your conduct is wrong. How can you e blameworthy or criminally liable for it? Moreover, when you are unaware fa risk you have no control over your lack of awareness. You are unaware of he risk, and you are unaware that you are unaware, and you are unaware[3] that you are unaware[2] that you are unaware[1], ad infinitum. Only if someone else
[p 158:]
informs you of your mistake will you be able to avoid it. So it seems unfair to punish you for negligence.

Being unaware[2] that you are unaware[1], means unknown unknowns.
But I am confused by the recursive addition of the 3rd 'unaware'.

closed as off-topic by Mozibur Ullah, virmaior, Joseph Weissman Feb 9 '17 at 22:17

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  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a question about the meaning of an expression in English, and not about philosophy. – Eliran Jan 29 '17 at 14:13
  • @EliranH I read it it as the OP asking by what precept of Legal Philosophy the author justifies using unaware ad infinitum, not what it literally means in English. – Isaacson Jan 30 '17 at 8:04
  • @Isaacson: the OP isn't making clear that the concept under interrogation is negligence; this is what I read the text is investigating. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 31 '17 at 11:57
  • @MoziburUllah Yes, I agree, but more specifically it is about how far one can reliably argue negligence when defined as lack of awareness of an unknown quantity. The author is claiming it is potentially infinite, the OP seems to be asking how the author arrived at that conclusion. I think it's a perfectly reasonable question within Legal Philosophy. – Isaacson Jan 31 '17 at 13:04
  • @Isaacson: I take it to be a piece of rhetoric to emphasise that there is a great deal more to the concept of negligence than at first meets the eye; its impossible to say much more without seeing how the author investigates the concept of negligence; if the OP was seriously interested in this concept I'd have expected to see how this is tied that investigation rather than stumbling on a rhetorical use of words; I'm not sure that there is much in the question. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 31 '17 at 13:22
1

I can only presume that the comment is metaphorical, meant to imply that at some point one has to take account of the failure of intellect in criminal responsibility.

Such a situation of recursive states of "unawareness" obviously cannot really persist without very quickly reaching a point of such ignorance as to represent someone who is comatose. This is why such an argument does not, in fact, apply in law, but instead law takes a pragmatic position that unless proven otherwise, people are aware that their actions have consequences, and that the law requires them to foresee and mitigate those consequences to a certain extent.

Thus, from a pragmatic point of view, only two states (i.e. the 1st 2 levels) are required to considered: the unawareness and the meta-unawareness.

The 1st level is plausible: a person can be unaware of the exact consequences of her action.

The 2nd level is conscionable: She can be unaware that their action is the type of action whose consequences might need examining for possible illegality.

But the 3rd is to speculate a person who is unaware that there even exist actions whose consequences may need to be investigated for their illegality, and so is to speculate a person who is unaware of the law at all. Not only could this never be practically applied as it would make a virtually un-disprovable defence against any misdemeanour, but it is so unlikely that the law treats it a special case of diminished responsibility on the grounds of mental impairment.

A fourth level is where someone is unaware that there could be such a thing as awareness of the consequences of actions, but has not, to my knowledge, ever been encountered in a conscious human and so is irrelevant to any discussion of human law.

1

It should be noted that not only does the author add a third "unaware" but he implies that you should add an infinite amount of "unawares". To illustrate what that idea means allow me to use another example.

From the MIT Open Courseware class Introduction to Linguistics by professor Pesetsky on the topic of morphology:

Productivity of morphology: (1) industry, industrial, industrialize, industrialization, industrializational, industrializationalize, industrializationalization, ...

There is no termination to the process, except that the words become too long and their meanings too complex to keep track of all the morphemes.

Think of the difference between the first few words. "Industry" is a noun that means the process of manufacturing goods. "Industrial" is an adjective that describes something as being related to industry. "Industrialize" is a verb that means to make something industrial. "Industrialization" is a noun that describes something in the process of being industrialized. "Industrializational" is an adjective that describes something as being related to industrialization. "Industrializationalize" is a verb that means to make something industrializational. "Industrializationalization" is a noun that ...

As you can see, although the concepts that we are describing are becoming much more complex each time we add a morpheme to the end, there is still an idea that is being conveyed by the words. This process could go on for as long as you feel the need to write down these words and all of the resulting words would still have meaning, albeit very abstract meanings. There is a pattern to take away from this. Notice that in each of the new words, the new ending is modifying the word that proceeded it. "Industrialization" uses the morpheme "ation" to modify "industrial" which came before it. "Industrializationalizational" uses the morpheme "al" to modify "Industrializationalization" which comes before it on the recursive chain.

So we can apply this sort of recursive backtracking to the example you gave. Let's take the definition of "unaware" to mean "a lack of knowledge" in this case.

(1) Being "unaware of the risks" means that you have no knowledge of the risks involved in the events.

(2) Being "unaware that you are unaware of the risks" means that you have no knowledge of the fact that (you have no knowledge of the risks involved in the events).

(3) Being "unaware that you are unaware that you are unaware of the risks" means that you have no knowledge of the fact that (you have no knowledge of the fact that you have no knowledge of the risks involved in the events).

(4) Being "unaware that you are unaware that you are unaware that you are unaware of the risks" means that you have no knowledge of the fact that (you have no knowledge of the fact that you have no knowledge of the fact that you have no knowledge of the risks involved in the events).

What we realize is that (2) says "you are unaware of (1)"; (3) says "you are unaware of (2)"; (4) says "you are unaware of (3); and so on. Each successive recursion asserts that you lack the knowledge of what comes before it.

In (1) what the proposition means is that you are unaware of the risk. In (2) what the proposition means is that you are unaware that you are unaware of the risk. In (3) what the proposition means is that you are unaware that you are unaware that you are unaware of the risk. And so on and so on ...

-1

This boggled me for the night and I went to collaborate with my Mate and we came to somewhat of a conclusion. (To be fair I'm a year 12 philosophy student so still an amateur)

I am not entirely sure if the context and purpose of this quote but I enjoyed this thought experiment so I thought it wouldn't hurt to share.

We came up with this analogy; consider a mathematical equation:

Knowing of a mathematical equation but not of the answer, is being unaware of the mathematical answer.

Not being aware that the question exists, makes you unaware the you are unaware.

Not knowing about rationality (in this case the process of solving mathematically), is being unaware that you are unaware that you are unaware; as you are unaware that there is a process to solve what you are unaware about. (Our minds instantly jumped to inception.)

This concept can easily be manipulated to other things. For example, consider that I am unaware that a blue bag is sitting on a rock in Canberra. Not knowing is being unaware. Not knowing that I don't know is unaware that I am unaware. And not knowing if green bags is being unaware that I am unaware that I am unaware.

To note in regards to the philosophy of law. I can only see this being applied to someone who has been charged for a crime unaware that he is unaware that he is unaware.

  • The purpose of the extract is to interrogate the concept of 'negligence'; I'm not sure your answer does anything helpful in trying to get to grips with this; for example, you seem to be tackling the concept of ignorance. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 31 '17 at 12:18

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