A reader wants my thoughts regarding the following hypothetical scenarios.
I own a modestly nice car, say, a 2014 Honda Accord with some bells and whistles. I treat it fairly well, ensuring that it receives in a timely fashion all of the required maintenance. I get it washed and waxed with pride. The one deficiency I have is that I park my car with some indiscretion. I am not that vigilant with locking my doors. You warn me that this is a mistake. I counter by saying that there are other cars that are more valuable, say BMWs and Audis and that I don't park my car in so-called 'bad areas.' Nonetheless, to my foolish shock and surprise, my car is stolen one day. Could it then be said that I am at least partially responsible for having my car stolen?
Yes, you are partially responsible, and the thief is partially responsible, but his part is larger than yours. You are the victim of the crime and he is the perpetrator. I blame both of you for the crime, loading the lion's share of the blame upon the perpetrator. But I blame you too, and in blaming you, I blame the victim. Clearly, it is right, proper, and just to blame the victim within limits and subject to qualifications.
This is why the accusation, "You are blaming the victim!" cuts little ice with me. In some, but not all, situations some judicious blaming of the victim is perfectly appropriate. People who cannot see this are in many cases victims of their own political correctness and ought to be blamed for not using their faculties and thus for being victims of their own self-induced political correctness. This is a sort of meta-level blaming of the victim.
We ought to distinguish the legal, the moral, and the prudential aspects of the situation. I will set the legal questions aside since in the above scenario the victim hasn't done anything legally wrong. (In related scenarios, however, the victim would probably be criminally negligent under the law, e.g, you leave your child in the car, keys in ignition, engine running, while you enter a convenience store for a cup of coffee, and your child is abducted.)
The prudential and moral aspects alone interest me. But before I explain the difference, let's consider my reader's second scenario.
If we say yes, then I wish to change the elements of our hypothetical scenario in attempts to pump some uncomfortable intuitions. Say instead of owning a modestly nice car, I own a modestly nice female body. I treat it fairly well, making sure I go to the doctor in a timely manner and go to the spa. However, I lack vigilance with myself and drink a lot at frat parties. You warn me that this is not wise. I counter by saying that there are other women more foolish than I and that I don't frequent 'bad places.' Yet, to my foolish shock and surprise, some abuse occurs. Could it be said that I am then at least partially responsible for the abuse?
Contemporary sentiment is that there is no one to blame for sexual assault except for the perpetrator. And while I agree that the perpetrators are primarily the culpable ones, I also think that there must be some level of personal responsibility that must be practiced. I don't think it terribly offensive for us to encourage women to exercise a healthy level of skepticism of one's fellow human being, yet feminists will cry foul, that we are punishing women for the potential crimes of others when we say it is their responsibility to not party or dress a certain way or hang out with a certain crowd or drink themselves to oblivion, that we should focus our efforts on disciplining the would-be perpetrators with more education.
(P) It is morally wrong to suborn immoral behavior.
BV: The examples given above are not examples of solicitation as per the definition to which you linked. The well-endowed but scantily-clad female who advertises her charms in dangerous precincts is not soliciting the crime of rape or any other crime against her person. The definition also implies that solicitation must be between a person A and some other person B. But if a person acts in such a way as to tempt another to commit a crime, there needn't be any particular person who is being tempted.Let's consider another example. I withdraw a large sum of money from an outdoor ATM machine at night in a bad part of town and then walk down the street ostentatiously counting my wad. I don't see that that foolish behavior would count as solicitation by the above definition. After all, I don't want to be robbed, and there is no specific person I am persuading to rob me. But if I offer you $10,000 to kill my wife so that I can collect on a life insurance policy, then that is a clear case of solicitation, as per the definition, whether or not you agree to attempt the dastardly deed and whether or not you succeed.
BV: So you are saying that the offer of a bribe is essential to subornation? If memory serves, however, in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton, one of the charges was subornation of perjury. Was it alleged that Clinton offered a bribe to the person or persons he attempted to persuade to perjure themselves? I'm just asking. And what exactly is a bribe in the eyes of the law? A monetary inducement only?In any case, I thought I made it clear that I was not talking above about the law but about morality. I linked to a dictionary definition of 'suborn' that is broader than a legal definition. But it may be that 'suborn' is not the best word for what I am trying to convey.
BV: The sort of counterexample to (P) that occurred to me was what goes on in a 'sting' operation by an undercover law enforcement agent.
BV: Now that is a good point. You leave the bank vault open with me nearby while you go out for lunch. Are you tempting me to steal or evincing faith in my honesty? Well, if you don't know me, or don't know me well, then you ought to bear some moral responsibility for my pilfering of the pelf. But if you knew me very well and knew that I was hitherto always honest, then I think very little or perhaps no blame would attach to you.The case of the sexually attractive and scantily-clad female who advertises her endowments around people she doesn't know is relevantly different. She knows what men in general are like and knows that her behavior is risky and yet she does it anyway. I say she bears some of the blame for the abuse she experiences.Suppose I know that Jack is an alcoholic and I ply him with strong drink at my Thanskgiving feast. He drives off drunk and slaughters a family of four. Do I bear some moral responsibility for the slaughter? Of course I do. But suppose I don't know Tom, but in good faith I sell him a gun, having no reason to suspect him of criminal intent, but Tom then kills his wife using the gun I sold him. Am I to any degree morally responsible for the crime? No, not to any degree.