Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):209-222 (2014)

Michael Skerker
United States Naval Academy
Relatively few authors attempt to assess individuals’ moral responsibility for collective action within organizations. I draw on fairly technical recent work by Seamus Miller, Christopher Kutz, and Tracy Isaacs in the field of collective responsibility to see what normative lessons can be prepared for people considering entry into large hierarchical, compartmentalized organizations like businesses or the military. I will defend a view shared by Isaacs that group members’ responsibility for collective action depends on intentions to contribute to particular collective actions, against Miller and Kutz’s more inculpating standards. Miller and Kutz fail to achieve their goal of articulating a variable standard for measuring individual responsibility within organizations, for reasons suggesting we might not be able to do better with their theoretical commitments than a threshold warning for all potential entrants to be wary of the groups they enter. Isaacs sketches an approach that is more successful at creating a variable standard for assessing high echelon actors; I build on and refine her theory to argue that organization members can be held responsible for their unique interpretations of the organization mission and unique contributions to their role duties. High echelon actors may share personal responsibility for their subordinates’ behavior when they have created the conditions for those actions through their unique orders
Keywords Collective responsibility  Corporate responsibility  Responsibility  Corporate intentions  Business ethics  Just war theory
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-013-9430-7
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References found in this work BETA

Social Action: A Teleological Account.Seumas Miller - 2001 - Cambridge University Press.
Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age.Larry May - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (3):483-486.
Collective Responsibility.Jan Narveson - 2002 - The Journal of Ethics 6 (2):179-198.

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