Article Text

Download PDFPDF
On complicity and compromise: a précis
  1. Chiara Lepora1,
  2. Robert E Goodin2
  1. 1Medecins Sans Frontieres, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  2. 2School of Philosophy, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Chiara Lepora, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; chiaralep{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Complicity consists in one person contributing to someone else's wrongdoing. But there is a diverse cluster ways of being involved in another’s wrongdoing. For a ‘diagnosis by exclusion’, we first fix the meaning of complicity in contrast to that with which it is often wrongly conflated.

Literally cooperating in wrongdoing with others, for instance, is more than complicity. Each and every cooperator is actually a co-principal in the wrong jointly committed; and each bears the full responsibility, shared with all co-principals, for the outcomes of that wrongdoing.

Other sorts of involvement with wrongs committed by others amount to less than complicity because the involvement there is causally inert and hence does not actually contribute to the other’s wrongdoing at all. Pardoning wrongs wholly in the past may be like that. So too may be some cases of wilfully overlooking wrongs that others commit under one's very nose.

Complicity is a very precise way of being involved in wrongdoing. Complicity consists in a secondary contribution of a causal (or potentially causal) sort to a wrong committed by someone else. That ‘contribution factor’ can be graded on many axes, in terms of how proximate, reversible or frequent the contribution was. Other things being equal, one is more complicit the …

View Full Text


  • Twitter Follow Chiara Lepora at @kiaralep

  • Contributors REG and CL equally contributed to conception of the work, drafting the work, revising it critically for important intellectual content, final approval of the version published, agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you