David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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My aim in this paper is to consider the conception of responsibility that is appropriate to the enforcement of standards of justice, both distributive and corrective. I will defend what I will call a reciprocity conception of responsibility, which supposes that responsibility must be understood in terms of norms governing what people are entitled to expect of each other. If I have sole responsibility to look out for myself, or for some interests of yours, then I am not entitled to expect anything from you or others and I am responsible, that is, answerable, for how things turn out. My argument for the reciprocity conception is meant to apply only to its role in institutions charged with giving justice. Conceptions of responsibility, other than this institutional one I defend, may well be appropriate, or unavoidable, for other purposes. In defending the reciprocity conception, I will be contrasting it with a family of non-instrumentalist conceptions of responsibility which I loosely group together under the title of “agency” conceptions. The grouping is loose, but legitimate, I think, because all members of the agency group suppose that the moral significance of responsibility derives from the ways in which a person acts in the world rather than, in distinction, upon what one may expect of others. In terms favoured by Gary Watson, agency conceptions suppose that the way in which a deed or consequence is attributed to the agency of its author, that is, “responsibility as attributability,” provides the basis for the moral interest we take in the responsibility of others, that is, “responsibility as moral accountability.”1 Different versions of the agency conception are all alike in supposing that the basis of a person’s moral accountability is fixed by the concept of attributability as applied to that person. But all versions of the agency conception suppose that to explain moral accountability, one must simply come up with the correct refinement of the idea of attributability..
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