Philosophical Studies

, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 1–23 | Cite as

Omissions as possibilities



I present and develop the view that omissions are de re possibilities of actual events. Omissions do not literally fail to occur; rather, they possibly occur. An omission is a tripartite metaphysical entity composed of an actual event, a possible event, and a contextually specified counterpart relation between them. This view resolves ontological, causal, and semantic puzzles about omissions, and also accounts for important data about moral responsibility for outcomes resulting from omissions.


Causation Omissions Causation by omission Moral responsibility  



This paper has benefitted enormously from comments by Mark Heller, Carolina Sartorio, Xiaofei Liu, Rachael Briggs, and Stephen Kearns. I also thank Mark Balaguer, Randy Clarke, Owen Flanagan, Daniel Nolan, Alex Rosenberg, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong for extensive conversation and feedback, and audiences at the Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference, Australian National University, Melbourne University, 2012 Pacific APA, Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, Triangle Area Philosophy Symposium, Arizona State University, Boise State University, and Cal State-Los Angeles.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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