The problem of many hands: Climate change as an example

Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (1):49-67 (2012)
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Abstract

In some situations in which undesirable collective effects occur, it is very hard, if not impossible, to hold any individual reasonably responsible. Such a situation may be referred to as the problem of many hands. In this paper we investigate how the problem of many hands can best be understood and why, and when, it exactly constitutes a problem. After analyzing climate change as an example, we propose to define the problem of many hands as the occurrence of a gap in the distribution of responsibility that may be considered morally problematic. Whether a gap is morally problematic, we suggest, depends on the reasons why responsibility is distributed. This, in turn, depends, at least in part, on the sense of responsibility employed, a main distinction being that between backward-looking and forward-looking responsibility

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.

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