Subjective, Objective and “Realistic” Moral Responsibility


As a common saying goes “Hell is paved with good intentions”, though Kant would disagree. In real world we may be morally responsible for more than one’s intentions. Moral agents need to navigate between Scylla of “objective” and Charybdis of “subjective” theories of moral responsibility; the resultant theory shall be called a theory of realistic obligation. It takes into account both subjective intentions and objective results of moral action. Since human beings are both intentional entities and physical objects, neglect of either objective or subjective factors leads to implausible consequences. In practical domains, such as business ethics, moral value needs to be assigned in part to our subjective intentions and in part to objective results of our actions. This allows for moral condemnation of inefficiency and balancing acts of efficiency versus deontic constraints.

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Peter Boltuc
University of Illinois at Springfield

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