Doris Wood
April 12, 2010
PHIL 2400-001

Responsibility in Ethics: Moral Responsibility

300 or so word summary of the article:

Aristole, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Reid, Immanuel Kant and P. F Strawson have all proposed theories, explanations and concepts as to what is means to be morally responsible. At the basis of each explanation is a set of definitions based on each philosophic view. There are, however, common threads.

The first commonality is that there is an “agent” (we usually call that agent the person) who either performs or does not perform an action. Another commonality is that another person is acting as a “moral agent” who assigns blame or praise. The assignment of this blame or praise then deems the agent or agent’s actions as morally responsible or irresponsible. At this point, divergent views emerge.

One view is fatalism, or predetermination. We have no real control over outcomes and, therefore, cannot be morally responsible for what happens. Another view is casual determinism, things happen because of outside influences. In scientific determinism, laws of the universe and nature are the cause. In theological determinism, it is God or a higher power who has control. These differing views have prevailed throughout the ages to support or argue against a whole range of moral issues. In the final analysis, it comes down to a matter of interpretation. Can a person REALLY be held responsible for any action? What are the qualifications of the person who is making the moral judgment? Does the agent (sometimes called the “candidate”) merit or deserve praise or blame? And will praise or blame change the agent’s behavior? These are the views of consequentialist. Attributalility means an action says something about the person. Accountability also deals with the person, or agent, but is more tied to a set of standards of conducts within a community. Both terms are used in making, or assigning moral judgments.
The debate on moral responsibility—the assignment of praise and blame—continues. I would venture to say that each one of us is both agent and judge on a daily basis, and the type of view we assign to each action will vary with each situation.

100 words or so on how it relates to class discussion:

Within the article, there were a lot of connections to what we have discussed in class. The major item that stood out was the issue of being responsible for your actions compared to being irresponsible for actions and relating it to ethics in all manners. It discusses to what extent this covers and how you are supposed to act upon the issue related to responsibility. Kant was a straight tie to class discussion with his view on being morally responsible. Some of the definitions later on in the article were once we have gone over within the Birch book, like fatalism. Also, the theological determinism was almost like the Divine Command Theory. There were many more connections between this article and what we have discussed in class that these were a few I thought most important.

Questions for future research:

1) Take these real-life historical events and explain using different moral responsibility views.
The creation of the world; the start of the Civil War (first shot fired at Ft. Sumpter); Haitian earthquake; the Great Depression.

2) The University of Toledo basketball team had a less than stellar season and now has a new
Coach. Provide a short answer on where the praise or blame, if any, should be assigned and
indicate why.

3) Take a personal issue where you termed the outcome “fate” and explain why. Then take a
different view to explain why maybe the outcome was not fate.

2) Answer By: Bobbie Linen The University baseketball team is to blame for their horrible season, but thanks toa new coach they will get the pressure they need to have a better season next year.

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