Philosophical Studies 178 (8):2665-2685 (2020)

Joseph Metz
University of Arizona
Many important harms result in large part from our collective omissions, such as harms from our omissions to stop climate change and famines. Accounting for responsibility for collective omissions turns out to be particularly challenging. It is hard to see how an individual contributes anything to a collective omission to prevent harm if she couldn’t have made a difference to that harm on her own. Some groups are able to prevent such harms, but it is highly contentious whether groups can be loci of responsibility. This paper takes an existing and plausible framework of moral responsibility—one based on abilities—and scales it up to accommodate responsibility for collective omissions. This centrally involves identifying what the relevant collective abilities are and how they work. One significant benefit of this approach is that we can do this while remaining neutral on the debates about collective agency and collective responsibility by showing how individualist and collectivist versions of the theory work. Finally, I explore several further upshots of the scaled-up ability-based account, including that degrees of responsibility can be cashed out in terms of strengths of the relevant abilities, which has both theoretical and applied implications.
Keywords Applied Ethics  Collective Responsibility  Ethics  Omissions  Moral Responsibility
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Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1007/s11098-020-01568-y
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Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.

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