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Responsibility and Practical Reason

Responsibility and Practical Reason

(p.203) 11 Responsibility and Practical Reason
Action, Ethics, and Responsibility
George Sher
The MIT Press

This chapter discusses the two necessary conditions of responsibility, one pertaining to the will and one to knowledge. The focus here is on the knowledge requirement, which has not received much, or sufficient, scrutiny. Philosophers have been mostly preoccupied with the other condition since determinism is more an immediate threat to freedom than to knowledge. The majority of discussions about responsibility tend to deal with its freedom-related condition. The chapter’s interpretation of the knowledge requirement maintains that an agent’s responsibility extends only as far as his awareness of what he is doing. However, what the agent is responsible for is not his act or omission simpliciter, but only those aspects of it and its outcomes of which he is aware. This implies that it often matters whether the agent is aware of the range of alternative actions he might perform, of the different outcomes which each might have, and of the likelihoods that the possible outcomes will eventuate.

Keywords:   responsibility, will, knowledge, determinism, awareness

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