Liberty and the Scope of Responsibility


This conference examined the moral and legal foundations and implications of an individual's obligation to help others in distress. A key question was whether a right not to act exists. We read philosophical, religious, and legal arguments on this question, and we explored differences between common law and civil law traditions on the duty of uninvolved bystanders to rescue people in danger.


Conference Readings

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189  (United States Supreme Court 1989).

Yania v. Bigan, 155 A.2d Penn. 343  (SC Penn 1959).

Buch v. Amory, 69 N.H. 257  (SC N.H. 1897).

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, 567 U.S. (USSC 2012).

Coogan, Michael D., eds. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Booth, Cathy. “The Bad Samaritan.” Time (January 24, 2001): 1-3.

Eltz, Louis A. Cooperation in Crime: An Historical Conspectus and Commentary. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1942.

Fletcher, George P. “On the Moral Irrelevance of Bodily Movements.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 142 (May 1994): 1443-1453.

Hornsby, Jennifer. “Action and Aberration.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 142 (May 1994): 1719-1747.

Kirschenbaum, Aaron. “The Bystander’s Duty to Rescue in Jewish Law.” The Journal of Religious Ethics 8 (1980): 204-226.

Levy, Ken. “Killing, Letting Die, and the Case for Mildly Punishing Bad Samaritanism.” Georgia Law Review 44 (Spring 2010): 607-695.

Mack, Eric. “Bad Samaritanism and the Causation of Harm.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9, no. 3 (Spring 1980): 230-259.

Moore, Michael S. Act and Crime: The Philosophy of Action and Its Implications for Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Persad, Govind. “The Action-Inaction Distinction Before NFIB v. Sebelius.” The Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford Law School. (July 29, 2013).

Posner, Richard A. “Epstein’s Tort Theory: A Critique.” The Journal of Legal Studies 8, no. 3 (June 1979): 457-475.

Skinner, Quentin, “The Idea of Negative Liberty: Philosophical and Historical Perspectives” In Philosophy in History, edited by Richard Rorty, J. B. Schneewind, and Quentin Skinner, 193-221. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Tomlinson, Edward A. “The French Experience with Duty to Rescue: A Dubious Case for Criminal Enforcement.” Journal of International and Comparative Law 20 (2000): 451-499.

Waldron, Jeremy. “Dignity, Rights, and Responsibilities.” Arizona State Law Journal 43, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 1107-1136.