Joint responsibility without individual control: Applying the Explanation Hypothesis

In Jeroen van den Hoven, Ibo van de Poel & Nicole Vincent (eds.), Moral Responsibility: beyond free will and determinism. Springer (2011)
Authors
Gunnar Björnsson
Stockholm University
Abstract
This paper introduces a new family of cases where agents are jointly morally responsible for outcomes over which they have no individual control, a family that resists standard ways of understanding outcome responsibility. First, the agents in these cases do not individually facilitate the outcomes and would not seem individually responsible for them if the other agents were replaced by non-agential causes. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility as overlapping individual responsibility; the responsibility in question is essentially joint. Second, the agents involved in these cases are not aware of each other's existence and do not form a social group. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility in terms of actual or possible joint action or joint intentions, or in terms of other social ties. Instead, it is argued that intuitions about joint responsibility are best understood given the Explanation Hypothesis, according to which a group of agents are seen as jointly responsible for outcomes that are suitably explained by their motivational structures: something bad happened because they didn’t care enough; something good happened because their dedication was extraordinary. One important consequence of the proposed account is that responsibility for outcomes of collective action is a deeply normative matter.
Keywords Moral responsibility  collective responsibility  shared responsibility  joint responsibility  overdetermination  Explanation Hypothesis
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Corporate Crocodile Tears? On the Reactive Attitudes of Corporate Agents.Gunnar Björnsson & Kendy Hess - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):273–298.
A Unified Empirical Account of Responsibility Judgments.Gunnar Björnsson & Karl Persson - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):611-639.

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