(Calvin College, Michigan)

An Anatomical Analysis of the Concept of Complicity

This project can be described as providing an anatomical analysis of the concept of complicity. First, there must be a principal actor for complicity to be possible. Thus, it would be mistaken for participants in a spontaneous riot to be described as accomplices. Second, we can refer to what a person does that renders him or her complicit in the wrongdoing of a principal actor as a contributing action, with the understanding that a contributing action can take the form of an omission. Third, a person bears moral blame for performing a contributing action but not necessarily for the outcome produced by the contributions of everyone involved. Fourth, there are many different ways in which one can be an accomplice. Thomas Aquinas enumerates nine ways. Thus, the contributing actions can take the following forms: By command, by counsel (providing information to the principal actor), by consent, by flattery (encouraging the principal actor), by receiving (covering for the principal actor after the fact), by participation, by silence, by not preventing, and by not denouncing (a special case of silence). It is important to realize that Aquinas attaches a condition to the last two forms of complicity: That one is bound to prevent and bound to denounce. In other words, one is complicit by the failure to prevent only if one has a moral obligation to prevent, and one is complicit by the failure to denounce only if one has a moral obligation to denounce.