Responsibility

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Responsibility

Postby opalkoboi » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:48 pm

The title may seem vague and that's because this topic is very broad in it's meaning.

Responsibility:

1) The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something. (Eg. babysitting your sibling, being responsible for them and what happens to them).
2) The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something (Eg. whether it is your fault or you caused a certain event to happen).

So, this raises many questions - are we responsible for what we do? At what age do we become responsible for what we do? Are we responsible for what others do? To what extent?

Personally, I feel the answer is no. Let's take a very sensitive topic for this - a young person kills themselves due to bullying. Now, the instant response would be the bullies are responsible. However, I have many points to address here.
1) They cannot be singled out in 'responsibility'. While it is primarily their fault no one did anything to stop it in the community, say a school, so bystanders also hold some blame. And I'm going to be very risky here and say that yes, if the victim didn't do anything they are somewhat responsible. However, that is where we draw the line between responsibility and fault. It is not the victim's fault, but they are partly responsible if they did nothing. The bullies were responsible, however in their case, yes, it's their fault as they chose to do something wrong. This can also be debated however to what makes a bully bully however I'm going to leave that bit out.
2) To what extent are they responsible or to blame? Well, this is kinda my main point here - although the bullies gave this person the feelings to make them want to kill themselves, which makes them responsible, they are also not responsible in a way as we cannot control each other's actions. They did not make the victim kill themselves, that was the victim's conscious choice. The bullies are only responsible for the feelings the victim had, not how the victim dealt with them.

This may seem like a cold-hearted example, so I'm going to move to another.

Someone murder's another person - the victim has never met the murderer in their lives. This is more for those who believe we are all responsible for each other's actions. No one would suspect the murderer of being a killer, and they had a happy life before they committed the murder. Obviously, the murderer is responsible, and imo how can the rest of the community be responsible for this? It effects them but they aren't responsible for the murder.

Basically, the question is, do we all take responsibility for each other's actions? Are we all responsible for each other in a community? Should we all look after one another?

My simple answer would be no, we should do our best to all look after one another but we are not all responsible for each other's actions, as only each individual can control what they do. This may come across as contradictory given my bullying example, as I said the bullies are responsible, which I think is undeniable, however the point I'm making there is there is only a certain level of responsibility people can take as we are not one mind, we a many individual existing in a community, each person with independent thought.
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Re: Responsibility

Postby Multiverse » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:47 pm

This is a heavy subject that I'm looking eagerly forward to reading somebody's epiphany about in this discussion. Unfortunately, though, I'm afraid that won't be me (but since I can't hold back my thoughts, here they are anyway).

I like (and agree with) how you define the differences between responsibility and thought. Here's some food for thought, though: If a person makes a decision that has consequences beyond what the person initially thought it could have, is the consequenses then the person's responsibility? Or do you have to be informed of the potential consequences of your actions in order to be responsible for it?
Personally I'm more for the second option: If I understand you correctly, it's the person's fault, but not his/her responsibility.

Let's keep in mind, however, that every decision we make is the consequense of every decision made before it, and therefore each of our ancestors, and everybody who knew or ever interacted with any of our ancestors (and by extension, anyone who influenced them, etc.), are responsible - but not to blame - for us taking the choices we do.
Using roughly the same mindset, Guilt, Blame, Fault and Responsibility are all values created by humans and applied by humans to humans - they are given not by nature, but by ourselves. For this reason, I think we should be careful about taking their very existence for granted - when all comes to all, there's really just people and what they do (though I'm just playing the devil's advocate now, so nobody has to adress that thought).
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Re: Responsibility

Postby cezen » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:22 am

This is a great topic. I'll probably give my own opinion when I'm less busy.
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Re: Responsibility

Postby levina » Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:05 am

A great topic indeed. I'm going to take my time and respond. (:

So, this raises many questions - are we responsible for what we do?

Yeah, we are. Sometimes, though, we may have excuses - ignorance, mistakes, and such. We're all human. But when someone has had the time and information to make their decision, there's no question as to whether they're responsible or not.
Another exception would be that we can't help how we feel. But, of course, we can control what we do about it. There's nothing wrong with feeling jealous of someone, it's not our fault if we do. It's if we decide to to be mean and deride that person that we become responsible.
Taking that further - sometimes, in the height of our emotions, we're not always thinking clearly and may not even be able to control ourselves. In American law (and some other judicial systems) a defendant can cite "extreme emotional disturbance" as a valid defense. Whether or not it it completely relieves someone of responsibility is something to consider.

At what age do we become responsible for what we do?


At the age when we're old enough and informed enough to make educated decisions, I think we're old enough to be responsible for them, but it depends on the situation. For example - at around age 12 we should know some basic morals, such as that stealing is wrong, and then choose to never do it, no matter the situation. But it's not until we're almost 20 (I'll say 18, since that's the voting age in my country) that we can make more intricate decisions, such as who to vote for in an election.
When my elementary school student body did a vote for student council president, the younger kids from the grades 4-8 range, and ages 9-13, respectively, voted for people for reasons such as a) they thought the candidate was pretty, b) the candidate promised them ''McDonalds' lunches'' or some shite, or c) they checked off a name randomly. It isn't until grade 7 or 8 that they (maybe) start making the decision seriously. (I'm speaking from experience here.) Case in point: children that young should not be making that sort of decision.

Are we responsible for what others do? To what extent?


Hm, it depends. I think that If we influence someone's actions in a definite way, then we have some responsiblilty for them. However, unless we coerced them into doing it somehow, we can only assume little to no responsiblilty for their actions.

Let's take a less transient example - the physical ideal for girls these days (skinny, tall, etc.) doesn't stem from any one person, but is enforced from past generations. No one's even sure where it started, but let's say it began with a specific culture and a specific time. Are the people who were present there and then responsible for people today who harm themselves through eating disorders? I'd say no, not really, because they didn't cause this kind of mindset to develop in people today; they influenced it indirectly.
Other opinions are welcomed.

Personally, I feel the answer is no. Let's take a very sensitive topic for this - a young person kills themselves due to bullying. Now, the instant response would be the bullies are responsible. However, I have many points to address here.
1) They cannot be singled out in 'responsibility'. While it is primarily their fault no one did anything to stop it in the community, say a school, so bystanders also hold some blame. And I'm going to be very risky here and say that yes, if the victim didn't do anything they are somewhat responsible. However, that is where we draw the line between responsibility and fault. It is not the victim's fault, but they are partly responsible if they did nothing. The bullies were responsible, however in their case, yes, it's their fault as they chose to do something wrong. This can also be debated however to what makes a bully bully however I'm going to leave that bit out.
2) To what extent are they responsible or to blame? Well, this is kinda my main point here - although the bullies gave this person the feelings to make them want to kill themselves, which makes them responsible, they are also not responsible in a way as we cannot control each other's actions. They did not make the victim kill themselves, that was the victim's conscious choice. The bullies are only responsible for the feelings the victim had, not how the victim dealt with them.


I agree with everything here. (:

Someone murder's another person - the victim has never met the murderer in their lives. This is more for those who believe we are all responsible for each other's actions. No one would suspect the murderer of being a killer, and they had a happy life before they committed the murder. Obviously, the murderer is responsible, and imo how can the rest of the community be responsible for this? It effects them but they aren't responsible for the murder.

Basically, the question is, do we all take responsibility for each other's actions? Are we all responsible for each other in a community? Should we all look after one another?

My simple answer would be no, we should do our best to all look after one another but we are not all responsible for each other's actions, as only each individual can control what they do. This may come across as contradictory given my bullying example, as I said the bullies are responsible, which I think is undeniable, however the point I'm making there is there is only a certain level of responsibility people can take as we are not one mind, we a many individual existing in a community, each person with independent thought.


Merging the bully and the murderer examples: If the murderer-to-be's kin stood by and watched while the he/she developed violent/abusive tendencies, or demonstrated hate toward a specific group of people/single person, or even received hints that they might commit the murder, then they too are responsible, in the same way a bystander is partly responsible, if they sit back and watch the bullying happen.
...that was a really long sentence. ;\

If a person makes a decision that has consequences beyond what the person initially thought it could have, is the consequenses then the person's responsibility? Or do you have to be informed of the potential consequences of your actions in order to be responsible for it?


No, I don't think so. While we can know the immediate consequences of our actions, we can't always know what the collateral, (or tertiary, going further down the line) effects are - so we can't always change our plans or decisions accordingly. However. In the (rare?) occasion where we do have some inkling that we would eventually cause whatever we caused, then yes, I'd say we would be responsible.
Last edited by levina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Responsibility

Postby Merv Simestra » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:42 pm

My opinion is very simple. I believe that I am responsible for all of my actions, as I also believe you are responsible for all of yours.

Take the bully-victim example opalkoboi used: the bully is responsible for what he (or she) has done; the community (and everyone in it) is responsible for not seeing (or turning a blind eye to) what the bully was doing and not trying to stop it; the parents of the victim are responsible for not trying to comfort their child; and the victim is also responsible for he or she did to himself or herself.

I believe blame is a bad word to use on this topic. Blame can be placed on anything (or anyone), but that doesn't mean that anything or anyone takes full responsibility for what happened. Everyone is responsible for his or her actions because ultimately he or she was the person who decided to take the action. The victim could have decided not to commit suicide, the parents could have decided to recognize their child's depression, the community to stop the bully, and the bully not to do anything at all. The bully may have been the cause, but that did and does not mean he or she is ultimately responsible for everything that happened afterwards.

Anyway, that's my take on responsibility.
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Re: Responsibility

Postby Kitsy » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:02 pm

Just a quick question to put to people, and in line with what Heiks said at the beginning. Are we responsible for the consequences of our actions if we did not predict the consequences that did occur?

It's a pretty though question imo. On one hand, you may never have expected the victim of bullying to kill themselves. Nevertheless, I think the general agreement is that the bully and others involved each have a
degree of responsibility.

But! What about the scientiest Leise Meitner, who is credited with discovering how to split an atom, nuclear fission etc etc. Is she responsible for the consequences of her and her colleagues discovery? Because nuclear fission had serious consequences, but are they therefore responsible?

And then what does responsible even really mean? If responsibility is simply one's actions affecting others, then eveyone is responsible for everything, then Meitner would be responsible for the atomic bomb. Or are we talking about "blame"? And if we are, the whole question of how far can you blame someone for consequences they could not predict?

I just rambled there, it's that kind of topic.
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Re: Responsibility

Postby levina » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:10 pm

:)
Last edited by levina on Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Responsibility

Postby cezen » Thu May 17, 2012 7:17 pm

Kitsy wrote:Just a quick question to put to people, and in line with what Heiks said at the beginning. Are we responsible for the consequences of our actions if we did not predict the consequences that did occur?

It's a pretty though question imo. On one hand, you may never have expected the victim of bullying to kill themselves. Nevertheless, I think the general agreement is that the bully and others involved each have a
degree of responsibility.

But! What about the scientiest Leise Meitner, who is credited with discovering how to split an atom, nuclear fission etc etc. Is she responsible for the consequences of her and her colleagues discovery? Because nuclear fission had serious consequences, but are they therefore responsible?

And then what does responsible even really mean? If responsibility is simply one's actions affecting others, then eveyone is responsible for everything, then Meitner would be responsible for the atomic bomb. Or are we talking about "blame"? And if we are, the whole question of how far can you blame someone for consequences they could not predict?

I just rambled there, it's that kind of topic.

I think you've brought up a good point.

We can distinguish Responsibility from Liability. Responsibility meaning that you are responsible for your actions, once you reach a standard point of competency where you know what you're doing. However, if unforseen events happen a result of your actions - you are responsible because your actions led to the event. But, you are not completely liable/at fault because it wasn't your intention.

Regardless, there are two opposing views you can have on liability: Liability based on intention and liability based on the outcome of your actions(known as outcome allocation).

Ultimately, ignoring liability, responsibility for your actions is important because your actions, intentional or no, distinguish yourself as an individual. Both your accomplishments and your faults are what make up your personhood - your historical identity. Your lifestory.

EDIT: (This is what philosopher Tony Honore proposed, I'm just parroting him because I believe its true to an extent)
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Re: Responsibility

Postby Rocket Axxonu » Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:36 am

This is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about, though often it simply goes around and around in my mind, and there are many situations I think of where it's hard to find a satisfactory answer. I like a lot of the things that have been said here. As Merv said, I think to some extent we are all responsible for our actions--if something terrible happens, such as a crime is committed, you have to take into account all the parties involved, including the perpetrator, the witnesses, and the victim. When it comes down to it, I think you have to look at it on a situation by situation basis--the victim could have some responsibility, [such as, perhaps if the victim was murdered, he/she might have been blackmailing the murderer, in which case there was some provocation], or he/she could be entirely blameless.

I also agree with levina that, even if we can't help how we feel about something, we do have control over our actions.

As for the question of where to assign responsibility if someone does something that results in something they did not intend--that's a hard one, but in my mind, I would separate the action in question into two categories. And that's whether the person ought to have known if behavior in question was likely to have a negative result or not, or whether the action was random, and no one could have expected it to have the result it had. You might say, whether the action is one we should have known to be wrong or not. In the case of bullying and the victim later committing suicide--it's true that the bullies might not have expected the victim to commit suicide, and that wasn't their intention, but at the same time, some reflection would have told them that it would hurt the person, make them miserable--and when people are miserable, they are far more likely to do something extreme, whether that's commit suicide, or do something extreme to hurt the bullies. In other words, the act was one associated with a negative outcome, even if the more extreme reactions aren't usually expected to happen, since they are rarer. Or, someone might be drinking or taking drugs--that would be another high-risk activity that could result in negative results for either themselves or others.

On the other hand, looking at what you might call 'the butterfly effect.' (That is, they say a butterfly flapping it's wings in some far off country can potentially cause a hurricane here. I'm not sure if that's true, but that's what they say.) The idea is, of course, some small, seemingly unrelated event results in something huge. Say, you normally carrots with your lunch, but one day you decide instead to get green beans. But it turns out the green beans were on recall because they were contaminated with something that ends up making you sick. There's no way you could have possibly predicted that, so that type of thing wouldn't be your responsibility in any way. Or take a look back at the late 1920s, when the stock market crashed--it's true that a lot of people who lost were investing way too much, and taking too many risks, but even the people who had been careful and were doing everything right lost, too. They couldn't be held responsible for that.

Anyway...ultimately I guess I think it can be complicated. Whose responsibility something is isn't always straight forward, and many times it can be a mix of different factors, some where someone did something wrong, some that were just bad luck. I think many times the important thing is to just focus on problem-solving, if possible, and healing rather than trying to figure out who's to blame.

(I know, this is a convoluted response. I shouldn't be doing this at this time of day. xD I think I've lost what I was trying to say...)
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