Monday, March 16, 2009

Responsibility and the levels of meaning

Once I made a distinction between meaning 1 and meaning 0. With the former I indicated the meaning a scientist gives to an object, either physical or social in character. It is the scientist’s theoretical interpretation of reality. With meaning 0 I indicated the meaning the people who make up social reality give to the social reality or to parts of it themselves. It is their interpretation of their own lived reality. If we take now my distinction between objective and subjective responsibility of my last week’s blog we can say that objective responsibility is responsibility in the sense of the meaning 1 of the concept of responsibility. Looked from a distance, from the viewpoint of a not involved scientist (not involved in what the responsibility is about), there seems to be no reason why the negative side effects of an action should be judged differently than the positive side effects. We can also say that from a third person’s point of view objective responsibility is responsibility on the level of meaning 1.
However, the reality as experienced by the participants is often different. Social reality is often not as simple as one would like to have it from a mathematical or mechanical point of view. Here I do not talk about why negative and positive side effects of intentional actions are judged differently. It is a fact that participants in social life do judge them differently. Their interpretations of the world around them take place in a way that is meaningful for them, consciously or unconsciously. That there are subjective interpretations of the world makes that there is also subjective responsibility, so responsibility in the sense of meaning 0. From a subjective point of view it needs not to be so that objectively the same kinds of effects lead to the same kinds of responsibility. Formulated in another way, from a first person’s point of view there is a subjective responsibility under the level of objective reality where the third person judges responsibility, i.e. on the level of meaning 0.

No comments: