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Individual responsibility

When, and how far, should individuals assume responsibility for their own disadvantages themselves, and when, in contrast to this, is it right for society as a collective body to try to remedy or mitigate disadvantage? Some theorists argue that in so far as disadvantages result from voluntary choices, they should be borne by the agents themselves and do not raise a case of justice for public assistance. This criterion is plausible in some cases but far from self-evident in others. In reality, people often fail to make the kinds of choices about what to do that we might hope for yet this does not necessarily make it right for them to abrogate responsibility entirely. And even where a voluntary choice has been made by the individual, it is not obviously right in every case for the individual to bear all the consequences. It is argued that in order to fully account for common intuitions in this area we must appeal to a more inclusive theory of responsibility that takes in a number of criteria of justice including, but not exhausted by, the presence or absence of voluntary choice. In addition to this, however, it is argued that, though important, justice is not the only reason why responsibility matters. We also care about individual responsibility because of its associations with human flourishing and because of the alleged moral value of autonomous choice. Whilst this pluralistic view of the value of individual responsibility can make it harder to arrive at definitive prescriptions about which social policies best advance our concerns, it is nevertheless possible to draw at least some policy conclusions. One important conclusion is that sometimes it is better not to hold individuals responsible for their past choices by denying them aid now, so that they might be better able to assume individual responsibility at a later date.
Date January 2005
CreatorsBrown, Alexander Colin
PublisherUniversity College London (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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