Responsibility: identifying purpose and finding meaning
Jurisprudence: an international journal of legal and political thought
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
The social and legal practices of blaming, praising, punishing and rewarding are inextricably linked with the process of ‘holding responsible’. Blame, praise, and the like exist as means of holding agents to account that is distinct from, but reliant upon, attributions of responsible agency. When claims of accountability are made without access to an underlying shared attribution of responsibility, the communicative role of accountability is undermined. Disagreement over blame and praise is reduced to disparity: able to hear only that something is a bad or good thing, we are left unable to understand what the bad thing is, or why it is bad. Responsibility as we employ it offers the basis for our evaluations of agents. However, conceptions of responsibility that focus on agent capacities, namely control and rationality, fail to give responsibility a meaning capable of fulfilling this purpose. The retrospective responsibility of agents for events does not result from the capacities of those agents. It is attributed on the basis of agents’ roles in events, enabling accountability for those roles.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis (Routledge) via the DOI in this record.
2015 ed., Vol. 6, pp. 252 - 273