problem of moral responsibility | Definition, Theories, & Facts | serii.info
Focusing on groups through the lens of collective moral responsibility has . Some aggregates meet at a particular place at about the same time with some The random collective, on the other hand, fails to decide what action to take first or . a view of society determined by individual choice and implying that attempts to. On the other hand, an employment action does not reach the for the tangible employment action, a determination must be made whether that. The original philosophical usage of "responsibility" was political (see McKeon, ). is with responsible action and the principles of representative government. The first question is usually taken as a question about moral agency, the .. To do this, it defines a system of prospective responsibilities that protect the.
We will not need to hold her responsible, because we can depend on her holding herself responsible. Another way of putting the matter would be much more contentious, and harkens back to the question of whether we should think of moral agency as a matter of degree. One might claim that the responsible person possesses the elements pertaining to moral agency such as capacities to judge moral norms or to respond to others to a greater degree than the irresponsible person. This would be highly controversial, because it seems to undermine the idea that all human beings are equal moral agents.
However, it would help us to see why a term we sometimes use to describe all moral agents can also be used to praise some people rather than others. However this may be, it is fair to say that this usage of "responsible" has received the least attention from philosophers. This is interesting given that this is clearly a virtue of considerable importance in modern societies. At any rate, it is possible to see some important connections between the virtue and the areas that philosophers have emphasized.
The irresponsible person is not one who lacks prospective responsibilities, nor is she one who may not be held responsible retrospectively. It is only that she does not take her responsibilities seriously. Note, however, that the more responsible someone is, the more we will be inclined to entrust her with demanding roles and responsibilities. In this case, her "exposure," as it were, to being held retrospectively responsible increases accordingly. And the same is true in the opposite direction, when someone consistently behaves less responsibly.
An illuminating essay by Herbert Fingarette considers the limit case of the psychopath, someone who shows absolutely no moral concern for others, nor any sensitivity to moral reproach. Perhaps our first response will be to say that such a person is irresponsible, even evil. Fingarette argues we must finally conclude that he is in fact not a candidate for moral responsibility — that he is not a moral agent, not to be assigned prospective responsibilities, not to be held retrospectively responsible for his actions.
In other words, it only makes sense to grade someone as responsible or irresponsible, so long as holding her responsible has any prospect of making her act more responsibly. The psychopath will never be responsive to blame, nor ever feel guilt. In fact, as someone who will never take any responsibility seriously, he does not qualify as a moral agent at all — as being responsible in its most basic sense. This might sound like writing the person a blank check to behave utterly immorally, but two points should be remembered: First, society protects itself against such people, often by incarcerating them as insane "psychopathy" names a mental disorder.
Second, the Kantian account reminds us that not to treat someone as responsible for her actions is to fail to respect her as the author of her deeds. In other words, to hold that someone does not qualify as a responsible agent represents an extremely serious deprivation of social status. Looking at the matter positively, we can also say that a person who exhibits the virtue of responsibility lives up to the three other aspects of responsibility in an exemplary way. First, she exercises the capacities of responsible moral agency to a model degree.
Second, she approaches her previous actions and omissions with all due concern, being prepared to take responsibility for any failings she may have shown. And third, she takes her prospective responsibilities seriously, being both a capable judge of what she should do, and willing to act accordingly. Moral versus Legal Responsibility As some of the examples of retrospective and prospective responsibility indicate, law has an especial connection with questions of responsibility.
Legal institutions often assign responsibilities to people, and hold them responsible for failing to fulfill these responsibilities — either via the criminal law and policing, or by allowing other parties to bring them to court via the civil law, for example when a contract is breached.
Accordingly, the justification of punishment represents a major concern of philosophy of law. Likewise, legal philosophers, including figures such as H. Hart, Herbert Morris and Joel Feinberg, have written a great deal about the philosophy of responsibility. Their discussions have had considerable influence on moral and political philosophers. The most obvious point, that all writers will endorse, is that legal and moral responsibility often overlap, but will diverge on some occasions.
In the liberal state we can hope that there will be systematic convergence, inasmuch as the law will uphold important moral precepts, especially concerning the protection of rights. In a corrupt or tyrannical state, on the other hand, it is obviously very common that legal and moral responsibility have no relation at all.
Tyrants often demand that their subjects be complicit in immorality, such as harming the innocent. An example where law and morality clearly overlap is murder: Few would dispute, then, that murder ought to be punished, both legally and morally speaking. However, the law does not punish attempted murder in the same way as an actual murder — that is, it does not prioritize intentions over outcomes in the same way that many believe that moral judgment should.
The difference between murder and grievous bodily harm may not lie in the intention or even in the actual wounds inflicted: Thus the crimes attract different punishments, though our moral judgment of someone may be no lighter in the case of a particularly vicious assault.
One way of putting this is to say that the law is concerned with definite outcomes, and only secondarily with intentions.
Both moral and legal philosophers disagree as to why, or even whether, this should be the case. A distinguished line of thought, exemplified by H.
Hart in his essay "Legal Responsibility and Excuses" in Hart,holds that legal responsibility should be understood in different terms to moral judgment. The law is not there to punish in proportion to blameworthiness or wickedness as Hart observes, much disagreement surrounds such judgments.
Instead, the law provides people who are competent to choose with reasons to act in socially responsible ways. Hart focuses on excuses under the law, such as insanity or coercion. Law admits such excuses in spite of their possible consequentialist disutility excuses may well decrease the deterrent force of law, because some people might hope to misuse these excuses to wriggle out of legal accountability.
For Hart, excuses are an important part of a system that does not just seek to prevent crime, but also to protect choice; as a result, law does not punish those who were not able to choose their actions.
Under such a "choosing system," "individuals can find out, in general terms at least, the costs they have to pay if they act in certain ways" In this way, law can foster "the prime social virtue of self-restraint" Law can also respect what Peter Strawson stressed in "Freedom and Resentment" If otherwise competent persons choose badly, they do not just cause harmful effects, but also undermine social relations.
His account therefore combines a consequentialist emphasis on external actions and outcomes with an important mental element: However, Hart emphasizes that his account does not apply to moral judgment, about which his views seem to be more or less Kantian.
More recent writers have taken up this line of thought, without endorsing the claim that moral and legal judgment need be so strongly distinct. Arthur Ripstein has argued that law defends equality and reciprocity between citizens. Law has to be concerned with fairness to victims as well as fairness to culprits. To do this, it defines a system of prospective responsibilities that protect the interests of all, and holds people retrospectively responsible for breaches.
Threats or attempts also disregard those interests and may be punishable, but they do not undermine equality in social relations as severely as successful violations of rights.
On this, see Hill, Ripstein leaves open whether this account might also have implications for understanding moral responsibility be it prospective or retrospective.
A quite different school of thought, recently exemplified in the work of Michael Mooreendorses a recognizably Kantian view of moral responsibility, and argues that the law ought to share this approach. Apart from the theoretical difficulties that face the Kantian approach to moral responsibility, however, this school of thought has to claim that large parts of legal practice are misconceived.
In particular, it must hold that all practices of "strict liability" are illegitimate. Strict liability is the practice of holding a person accountable if certain harms materialize, even where she could not have done anything to prevent those harms coming about.
Legal responsibility has another interesting relation to the question of responsible agency. In addition to admitting "excusing conditions" such as insanity, systems of law stipulate various age conditions as to who counts as responsible.
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For example, all jurisdictions have an age of criminal responsibility: Likewise, law permits only people above certain ages to engage in various activities: Again, legal categories will often overlap with moral judgment: That said, our non-legal judgments about when a person becomes sufficiently mature to be responsible invariably depend on the person, as well as on the difficult question of what degree of maturity is necessary to responsible conduct in different spheres of life.
Collective Responsibility In recent decades increasing attention has been given to the question of collective responsibility. This question can arise wherever the actions of a group of people combine to generate a particular result — whether a corporation, or the citizens of a state, or even individuals who have no particular connection to one another.
A well-known example of the last is "the tragedy of the commons," when lots of people use a shared resource — for instance, everyone using the commons as grazing land for their cattle — resulting in the degradation of that resource.
Our increasing awareness of damage to environment has given this case particular contemporary importance. There are questions about the responsibilities of the collective, and of the individual as a member of that body.
Recall that one of the original uses of the word responsible" was to describe a desirable quality of government, and that we still use the word in this way to praise some institutions, just as we may criticize a corporation or group as irresponsible.
Many perplexities about shared responsibility arise from the thought that individuals are responsible agents, in a way that groups cannot be. A well-known formulation captures this problem neatly: As pointed out above, it is usually thought that a person can be blamed or deserve punishment by virtue of certain psychological capacities "soul"as well as by virtue of being the same person "body" today as she was yesterday.
On this account, there is a serious puzzle as to how a collective can be responsible, since a collective lacks the psychological capacities of an individual person but see the Encyclopedia article on collective intentionality and its membership tends to alter over time. Note, however, that if we think of responsibility in terms of capacities to interact in the light of shared norms — as the Humean account of moral agency might suggest — rather than as a matter of particular psychological capacities, then we need not be so concerned with those capacities nor, perhaps, with changes in membership.
A separate article, collective moral responsibilitydiscusses the issues that arise here. It may be useful, however, to indicate briefly how the four aspects of individual responsibility discussed above might apply to the collective case. The Agency of Groups In the first place, it is clear that collective bodies can function as agents, at least in some circumstances.
Groups and organizations can pursue particular policies, respect legal requirements, reach decisions about how to respond to situations, and create important benefits and costs for other agents. They can also offer an account of their previous actions and policies, setting out how and why these were decided upon. Clearly, organizations may function better or worse in all these regards — as may the other organizations with which they interact and which may, in turn, hold them responsible.
Retrospective Responsibility of Collectives By the same token, collective bodies can be held responsible. In fact, law does this all the time, at least for formally established collectives that are not states, for example, corporations, charities and statutory bodies such as government agencies. As a body, the collective owns property and acts in systematic ways: States act deliberately, but holding them accountable is much more difficult. States can commit the most serious wrongs, waging war or inflicting grave injustice upon their own peoples.
International law attempts to codify some duties of states, and the duties of individuals who govern them.
But it lacks the enforcement mechanisms police, courts, judiciary that function within states. Examples of attempts to hold states and their agents retrospectively responsible include: As the article on collective moral responsibility discusses, imposing liabilities, punishments or duties onto collective bodies will finally involve costs or duties for individuals. This poses many difficult questions about how the supposed responsibilities of the group might be traced back to particular individuals.
Perhaps the people who were most to blame have died or moved jobs or are otherwise out of reach. Should the citizens of a country make amends for the wrong-doing of their forefathers, for instance? Ought a corporation that has fired its top managers still be liable to pay fines for the misdeeds that those former managers led the corporation into?
As in the individual case, of course, our moral judgment may differ from codified responsibilities: Just as in the case of individuals, attempts to hold groups and organizations retrospectively accountable often, therefore, reveal serious moral disagreements, and invariably have a political dimension, too. Responsibility as a Virtue Groups, companies, and states can all be more or less responsible. Originally, "responsible government" described government responsive to the wants and needs of its citizens; in the same way, we now speak of corporate social responsibility.
As in the individual case, for collectives to exhibit the virtue of responsibility depends on the other three aspects of responsibility discussed in this article. With regard to moral agency, it will require good internal organization, so that the body is aware of its situation, capacities, actions and impacts. With regard to retrospective responsibility, it involves a willingness and ability to deal with failings and omissions, and to learn from these. As with individuals, how far a body is likely to do these things also depends on how far those around it that is, both individuals and other collectives act responsibly.
For instance, others will need to form appropriate expectations of the collective, and be prepared to enforce these expectations fairly and reasonably. Conclusion This article has pointed to four dimensions of responsibility, reflecting the various ways in which the word is used. Moral agency can also be termed responsible agency, meaning that a person is open to moral evaluation. This sort of moral status points in two directions.
In the other direction, a moral agent has particular duties or concerns — the stuff of prospective responsibility.
Moral Responsibility (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Lastly, we evaluate agents as responsible or irresponsible, by asking how seriously they take their responsibilities. This involves evaluating them in terms of how far they exercise or possess the capacities pertaining to moral agency, how they approach their past actions and failings, and how they approach their duties and areas of responsibility. As we have seen, writers differ concerning the connections between moral and legal responsibility, but it is also true that these four dimensions all find echo in legal uses of responsibility.
Philosophical discussion often considers these aspects of responsibility only with regard to individuals, so that the term "collective responsibility" appears puzzling, despite its frequent usage in everyday life. This article began by observing that the word responsibility is surprisingly modern, and that two quite different philosophical stories have been told about it.
Very little was said concerning the first story, concerning responsibility in political thought. However, it has pointed out that the concept extends more widely than modern philosophical debates tend to acknowledge. Prospective responsibility relates to the fine-grained division of responsibilities involved in the different roles which people adopt in modern societies — above all, the different spheres of responsibility which we are given in the workplace.
By the same token, responsibility has clearly become a very important virtue in modern societies. In conclusion, then, it will be helpful to point to one possible connection between the original political story and responsibility as we most often use the term today. See also Pettit,for another account. Uncertainty and disagreement about how we should live together is one of the most marked features of modern life.
We live in an age when both individuals and organizations are asked to be endlessly flexible. Our roles and responsibilities are continually changing and continually challenged. Uncertainty and disagreement about prospective responsibilities are always passing over into disputes about retrospective responsibility, as we hold one another accountable. We all face the test, then, of how to conduct ourselves amid this uncertainty and disagreement.
It is surely one hallmark of the person who exhibits the virtue of responsibility that she contributes to cooperation in the face of this difficult situation. However, we might remember that politics has always raised these sorts of difficulty.
In modern societies, negotiation, compromise and judgment are required, not just of those who take on formal political office, but of all of us. It is surely no wonder, then, that we no longer think of responsibility as only a question for the political sphere. References and Further Reading Adkins, A.
Bovens, Mark The Quest for Responsibility: Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organizations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Investigates how regulation, organisational reform, and different means of accountability can address irresponsibility on the part of institutions. Feinberg, Joel Doing and Deserving: Essays in the Theory of Responsibility, Princeton University Press, Princeton A collection of classic essays on moral and legal responsibility.
Fingarette, Herbert Mapping Responsibility: Strawson was certainly amongst those who made this assumption in trying to adjudicate the dispute between those compatibilists who held the consequentialist view of responsibility and incompatibilists who held the merit-based view.
However, a number of authors have suggested of late that at least some disagreements about the most plausible overall theory might be based on a failure to distinguish between different but related concepts of responsibility. Broadly speaking, a distinction has been made between responsibility as accountability and responsibility as attributability.
In other words, an agent is responsible, if and only if it is appropriate for us to hold her responsible, or accountable, via the reactive attitudes. This highlights a main theme in Strawson--namely, that our responsibility practices are inherently social.
Through the reactive attitudes e. Relatedly, this line of thought may help explain the historical preoccupation with whether responsibility for an action requires the ability to have done otherwise. That is, the normative concern for a fair opportunity to avoid blame and sanction may lie behind the felt need to have access to alternatives.
Notably, some accounts of responsibility make no essential reference to the reactive attitudes or their accompanying practices. According to such views, the practice of ascribing responsibility involves assigning a credit or debit to a metaphorical ledger associated with each agent Feinberg: In other words, an agent is responsible if a fault or credit is properly attributable to her.
Ledger views belong to a broader class of views which regard responsibility to be a matter of proper attributability.
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As Gary Watson has highlighted, the central concern in such views is whether the agent's action or attitude discloses her evaluative judgments or commitments Satisfying some baseline conditions of responsibility as attributability would appear to be necessary in order to be responsible in the sense of accountable.
For example, it would seem unfair to hold someone accountable for an action via reactive attitudes such as resentment or indignation, if the action was not properly attributable to the agent--say, because she succumbed to a genuinely coercive psychological compulsion.
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Yet being responsible in the attributability sense is not sufficient for being responsible in the accountability sense. As Watson points out, it may make no sense to hold the agent responsible for the action in question, since it may not be the sort of thing for which they are accountable to us. For example, one may think that in making a career decision, an acquaintance failed to give due consideration to what would most fully develop and exercise his talents.
Though this is not a moral judgment in the narrow sense favored by accountability theorists that is, it is unconnected to any interpersonal demand, or mutual expectation, of the sort presupposed by the reactive attitudes it is a case of finding fault in the way an agent has exercised his judgment. If responsibility as accountability and attributability can come apart in this way, then there appear to be at least two distinct concepts of responsibility.
Such a view—call it the "answerability" model—appears to combine aspects of the attributability and accountability models see discussion by Watson and Shoemaker The self-disclosure aspect of the attributability model is reflected in emphasizing that the target of appraisal must be judgment-sensitive.
The interpersonal emphasis characteristic of Strawson-inspired accountability models is reflected in the demand for justification though answerability theorists tend to reject a necessary connection between these demands and the reactive attitudes.
In this way, the answerability model offers the possibility of re-unifying discussions of responsibility Smithbut some see further grounds for distinguishing an additional sense of responsibility Shoemaker The recognition of diversity within the concept or amongst concepts of moral responsibility has generated new reflection on whether the conditions on being morally responsible are in tension with one another Nagel ; G.
Strawson—, —; Honderich A rapidly expanding body of empirical data on folk intuitions about freedom and responsibility has added fuel to this debate Nahmias et. If there are irreconcilable tensions within the concept of responsibility, then the conditions of its application cannot be jointly satisfied. Of course, there have always been those—e. However, a noteworthy new trend amongst both contemporary hard determinists and others who conclude that the conditions for the applicability of our folk concept cannot be jointly satisfied has been the move to offer a revisionist conception of moral responsibility or something analogous to moral responsibility and its associated practices rather than to reject talk about being responsible outright.
Revisionism about moral responsibility is a matter of degree. Some revisionists seek to salvage much if not most of what they take to be linked to the folk concept Dennett The resurgence of interest in metaphysical treatments of freedom and moral responsibility in recent years is a sign that most have not been persuaded by his most radical critique of such approaches.
Nevertheless, his enduring influence is reflected in the ongoing rich discussion of the place and role of the reactive attitudes in human life and in the way contemporary theorists situate their models of responsibility in relation to the accountability model, which he helped to define. A Study in Greek Values, Oxford: The Nicomachean Ethics, trans.
The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes, 2 vols. Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage: An Essay on Free Will, Princeton: Free Will and Determinism, New York: Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, Oxford: Freedom and Responsibility, Princeton: Cambridge University Press, Brink, David and Nelkin, Dana, Ethics with Aristotle, New York: Its Nature and Norms, New York: Freedom Evolves, New York: Personality and Moral Behavior, New York: Metaphilosophy and Free Will, New York: Ekstrom, Laura Waddell, Companions to Ancient Thought 4: Essays in the Theory of Responsibility, Princeton: On Responsibility, New York: Fischer, John Martin, The Metaphysics of Free Will: Fischer, John Martin and Ravizza, Mark, Perspectives on Moral Responsibility, Ithaca: Fischer, John Martin and Tognazzini, Neal, Four Views on Free Will, Oxford: Puzzles, Proposals, and Perplexities, New York: Punishment and Responsibility, New York: A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life Hopes, 2 vols.
Clarendon Press Irwin, Terrance, ed. Classical Philosophy, New York: John Doris, et al. Self-Determination without Illusions, New York: Conversation and Responsibility, New York: McKenna, Michael and Russell, Paul, eds.
Free Will and Reactive Attitudes: Essays in Moral Philosophy, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Meyer, Susan Suave, Justin, Kvaran, Trevor, Nichols, Shaun and Knobe, Joshua, Philosophical Explanations, Cambridge, MA: Rorty, Amelie Oksenberg, ed.
Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, Los Angeles: University of California Press. Freedom and Moral Sentiment: University of Utah Press. Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions, New York: Cambridge University Press Sher, George, In Praise of Blame, New York: Shoemaker, David and Tognazzini, Neal, eds.
Free Will and Illusion, New York: Moral Responsibility and the Boundaries of Community, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Necessity, Cause, and Blame, Ithaca: Freedom and Belief, New York: Reprinted in Fischer and Ravizza, Moral Responsibility and Ontology, Dordrecht: Essays Presented to P.