Jun 29, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Collective Responsibility :o)

The notion of collective responsibility, like that of personal responsibility and shared responsibility, refers to both the causal responsibility of moral agents for harm in the world and the blameworthiness that we ascribe to them for having caused such harm. Hence, it is, like its two more purely individualistic counterparts, almost always a notion of moral, rather than purely causal, responsibility. But, unlike its two more purely individualistic counterparts, it does not associate either causal responsibility or blameworthiness with discrete individuals or locate the source of moral responsibility in the free will of individual moral agents. Instead, it associates both causal responsibility and blameworthiness with groups and locates the source of moral responsibility in the collective actions taken by these groups understood as collectives.

Methodological individualists challenge the very possibility of associating moral agency with groups, as distinct from their individual members, and normative individualists argue that collective responsibility violates principles of both individual responsibility and fairness. Defenders of collective responsibility take their cue from these critical arguments and set out to show that collective responsibility—as well as group intentions, collective action, and group blameworthiness—are coherent as a constructs and can be ascribed to agents fairly in at least some, if not all, cases.

Do groups have to meet the same stringent conditions of moral responsibility that individuals do? (Intentionality becomes key here.) What are the advantageous and disadvantageous of holding particular kinds of groups, e.g., nation states, races, and ethnic groups, morally responsible in practice? 

I find that groups often hide behind their collectiveness, and discount perceptions and actions at the fringes as anomalies, and outside the "intention" of their group.  I say that if they are affiliated, they are representative, and it is up to the group to reign them in.  What are your thoughts?



  1. As a member of a group, you condone "rogue" members who act like idiots if you don't condemn them. This is why the anti-choice people get zero respect from me...as well as most religious groups.

  2. I agree with Russ. In Detroit, the actions of the few represent the unspoken members of groups who participate in or have then intent to faciliate the continuing unfavorable action. By doing this, 'guilt becomes the association', because a lack of disaproval is by omission, approval.


Tell Me What You Think, Don't Make me go Rogue on you :o)