Victor Tadros, ‘Distributing Responsibility’

A widespread view in moral, legal, and political philosophy, as well as in public discourse, is that responsibility makes a difference to the fair allocation or distribution of things that are valuable or disvaluable independently of responsibility. For example, the fairness of punishing a person for wrongdoing varies with her responsibility for wrongdoing; the fairness of requiring a person to pay compensation varies with her responsibility for the harm that she caused; the fairness of one person being worse off than another varies with her responsibility for being worse off; the fairness of inflicting defensive harm on a person to avert a threat varies with her responsibility for causing or posing the threat; and so on.

Little attention has been paid to the central issue of this article: the allocation and distribution of responsibility itself. How can responsibility be allocated or distributed? The social structures of a society, and the choices that individuals make within them, make a difference to who will be responsible for what and how responsible they will be. A person’s responsibility for wrongful actions, imprudent actions, prudent actions, good actions, supererogatory actions, and so on, is itself influenced by social structures and choices. Given their impact on what people will be responsible for, how should these social structures be developed, and choices be made? …

Victor Tadros, Distributing Responsibility, Philosophy and Public Affairs volume 48, issue 3, pages 223-261 (Summer 2020).

Leave a Reply