Note on the Nature of “Accidents”


Someone agreed in Mark Reads Harry Potter thread with Voldemort of all people: that Harry’s mother’s sacrifice, Harry’s decision to fight back in the graveyard, and Harry’s decision to sacrifice himself, were all accidents, because none of the people who made those decisions knew what effects would happen.

I can only take from that line of reasoning the idea that there’s no reason to do something unless you know it will do good, and if something good happens and you didn’t intend it, your decision was still an accident.

Conversely, if something bad happens and you didn’t intend it, what you decided to do was still an accident.


That line of thinking backs out of the idea of responsibility for consequences you didn’t intend when you made a certain decision. If you rat out my location to my parents, and then they kill me when you didn’t intend this to be the case and didn’t even know that would happen, you would still be responsible for killing me. You made that choice; you made that decision; and it wasn’t an accident. The result not being what you intended? Your decision still isn’t merely an accident.

It’s one thing to, say, not see someone and hit them with your car; or, say, not realize when you tell someone else some information that they’re immediately going to tell my parents. It’s another thing to deliberately see someone, assume they’ll just make it, cross early before they do, and hit them with your car; or when you give my parents an entire log of what I’ve done and where I’ve gone for the past three months.

I sometimes wonder if that’s how the people who turned mole to my parents rationalized their decisions ever after.

Oh well. There are still people who think I should have died, and I confess many days I’m one of them, despite the impractical nature of that thought.


2 thoughts on “Note on the Nature of “Accidents”

  1. That sounds like a thing a lot of people have, where they insist that their intention should be the only thing that counts, and argue strenuously that they shouldn’t be accountable for the effects of their actions …even if those effects were entirely predictable and the actions in question were callously irresponsible. It comes up a lot in arguments over discrimination.

    It’s the same kind of dynamic as when a grownup tells children not to hit baseballs anywhere near the house and the children protest: they won’t break the windows; you’re being unfair! It takes a bit more developmental maturity to grasp that intent does not control results. In adults, I tend to view arguments that “you can’t judge me by my effect on the world; only my pure intent should count” as pure lying, motivated by a guilty conscience.

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