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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2008, 06:43 AM Thread Starter
Cerberus
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berlin, Germany
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Posts: 4,462

How much responsibility should people take on?


How much responsibility should people take on for what they say and do? People often avoid responsibility in what they say and do, and it can be recognized when they say a variant of the following: "I couldn't help it." "(S)He made me do it." "It was my only option." Or, if they don't want to take on too much responsibility for what they're saying, they'll say, "IMO," "IMHO." Or, if they don't want to assume too much responsibility for negating or casting doubt on someone else's opinion they'll say, "that's only your opinion."

Volition-denial is particularly contemptible in our society when it comes to certain behaviors. For example, to take on an extreme case, "I couldn't help but rape that women because she dressed sexy and I have natural urges that cannot be helped." Or, to take on a mild version, "I couldn't help but runaway from the opportunity to have consensual sex because I have natural urges that cannot be helped (fear)."

Passing the buck, as it were, is all the rage. Passing the buck can be emotionally satisfying. If one is under a lot of stress and one generally fails, they may blame society, their parents, societal institutions, etc., for their shortcomings, and thus help dissolve their responsibility (in their minds) for their failures?

Anyway, a confusion between what "is" and what "ought to be" or what one "ought to do" is probably where the problem lies (Hume's guillotine). People hear the deterministic explanations given by psychologists (someone's upbringing caused their adaptive or maladaptive behaviors later in life) or from geneticists or whatever (my genes predisposed me to do it). They take these "is" explanations and derive their means of evaluating someone's moral worth from it by shifting from "is" to "ought" propositions. "He isthis way, thus we ought not blame him so much." "He is from an environment that fostered ignorance, thus we ought not blame him for such ignorance. He was raised by a sexually abusive father/mother, thus we ought not blame him too much for the sexual abuse he afflicts on others. He is genetically disposed towards being fearful, thus we ought not blame him for acting cowardly in various situations, such as in war, intimacy, etc.

But, on what grounds do we deduce these ought statements from these is statements? And on what grounds do we assign responsibility? Or, on what grounds do we increase how much responsibility we assign to someone or lessen it? Should we go by an absolute standard of assigning full responsibility to people for their actions? Should we go by caprice and what horrifies us or inspires us at the moment? Who the hell are we to increase someone's responsibility when it suits us and decrease it when it doesn't? Who the hell are we to increase our level of responsibility for something when it suits us (i.e. when we achieve something socially esteemed) and decrease our level of responsibility when it doesn't suit us (i.e. when we do something socially unacceptable)?
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