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Moral responsibility and the ‘honor box’ system

August 24, 2015

Excerpt from an OUPblog article, published on 22nd August, by John M. Doris, Professor in the Philosophy–Neuroscience–Psychology Program and Philosophy Department, Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency, which is now available on Oxford Scholarship Online.

Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency

"If you’ve worked in an office, you’re probably familiar with “honor box” coffee service. Everyone helps themselves to stewed coffee, adds to the lounge’s growing filth, and deposits a nominal sum in the honor box, with the accumulated proceeds being used to replenish supplies. Notoriously, this system often devolves into a tragedy of the commons, where too many people drink without paying. Unless some philanthropic soul goes out of pocket to cover freeriders, the enterprise goes in the red, and everyone’s back to extortionate prices at the cafe.

Fortunately, the tragedy of the honor box may be readily ameliorated; if images of eyes are placed prominently near the coffee service, deposits increase."

Discover more: Read more about the Watching Eye effect on human behaviour in John's article 'Moral responsibility and the ‘honor box’ system'. The first chapter of Talking to Ourselves, 'Staging', is now freely available until the end of September. Get access to the full text of this book, as well as almost 1,700 Oxford Philosophy titles, by recommending OSO to your librarian today.