Monday, March 02, 2009

Being responsible depends on what one does

In my last blog, I showed that people judge the negative side effects of intentional actions and their positive side effects not in the same way. While people are held responsible for negative side effects of what they do, they often aren’t for the positive side effects. This difference has deep consequences, I think, for our idea of moral responsibility, but also for our idea of doing something intentionally, albeit maybe not directly for doing something with an intention. For it means that fundamentally moral responsibility is not only dependent on the fact that we do it but also on the contents of what we do. Moral responsibility seems not to be simply a consequence of the fact that we are the agents of what we are doing but also of the way our doing hits other people, namely negatively or positively, at least as far as it concerns the side effects of what we do. Apparently our moral responsibility is bigger in case when we hurt than in case we do good, and we need to avoid of doing something bad, although, on the other hand, we are not necessarily required to do something good. Moral responsibility seems to be something asymmetrical.
Mutatis mutandis the same can be said of the idea of intentionally. Apparently side effects of actions are considered to be intentional or not dependent on whether they are seen as bad or as good. The positive side effects of what we do are not necessarily intentional, although its negative side effects always are. At least, that seems to be so if we look at the subjective side of how people judge the effects of what agents do.


Talvenloppu said...

Excellent piece Henk, thanks, again

HbdW said...

Thanks for your appreciation and telling it me.