Monday, April 20, 2009
The measurability of responsibility
The idea that there is a gliding scale of responsibility supposes implicitly that it is clear how to ascribe responsibility and in what degree. Remember that we are still talking about responsibility for the side effects of an action or, as in my last blog, about my responsibility for what another person did in reaction to an action of mine. Now, if it would be the case that someone acted and there is a clear idea of responsibility in the sense mentioned, then it would be fundamentally possible to know after a thorough research whether an agent was responsible for an action and how much, maybe even as exactly as for say 20, 37 or 69 per cent. However, when we look in the philosophical literature the actual view is far from that. Or look around yourself and you’ll see that people disagree in their judgments about the degree of responsibility of an agent for his or her acts, a fact that has been confirmed by recent research. When we compare people in different cultures, the differences in judgment will certainly be bigger. The upshot is that responsibility exists and that we can say a lot about it but in practice we are far from being able to give it a clear interpretation.