Philosophical Issues 22 (1):217-232 (2012)

Bennett W. Helm
Franklin and Marshall College
What is responsible agency? I want to consider two perspectives we might take in thinking about responsibility, what we might call an inner and an outer perspective. The inner perspective is that of the agent herself, involving her having and exercising (or failing to exercise) certain agential capacities and so choosing and controlling her actions. The outer perspective is that from which we assess someone’s conduct and—crucially—her will as a matter of holding her to account. In each case, responsibility is always to a certain set of norms. From the internal perspective, these are norms that are binding on her (or to which she binds herself); from the outer perspective these are norms in terms of which we assess her and so to which we hold her. My aim in this paper is to argue that the inner perspective does not have priority over the outer perspective and thus that the theoretical approach is mistaken: our ability, prominent from the inner perspective, to take responsibility and so to hold ourselves accountable is not intelligible apart from our having a place in a broader community in which others hold us accountable. This idea, of course, is familiar to readers of Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment.” However, unlike Strawson, I do not think this implies that the outer perspective is prior to the inner, for ultimately I think we cannot make sense of an agent’s being properly held accountable unless he can take responsibility for his actions in a way that ultimately presupposes his freedom. This is not something I can argue here; rather, my claim will be that we cannot understand an agent’s being accountable as depending simply on the agent herself; rather, accountable agency depends on capacities that are essentially social.
Keywords responsibility  reactive attitudes  Strawson  freedom  emotions  respect
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DOI 10.1111/j.1533-6077.2012.00226.x
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References found in this work BETA

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Mental Events.Donald Davidson - 1970 - In L. Foster & J. W. Swanson (eds.). Clarendon Press. pp. 207-224.

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Citations of this work BETA

Reactive Attitudes as Communicative Entities.Coleen Macnamara - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):546-569.
Can Emotions Communicate?Trip Glazer - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):234-242.

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