Two Concepts of Responsibility
This chapter explores two senses of responsibility: the responsibility we bear for our own actions and decisions or ‘outcome responsibility’, and the responsibility we may have to come to the aid of those who need help or ‘remedial responsibility’. Outcome responsibility provides an important way of identifying remedial responsibility. Outcome responsibility starts with agents and asks how far they can reasonably be credited and debited with the results of their conduct. Remedial responsibility starts with patients — people who are deprived or suffering — and asks who should shoulder the burden of helping them. These two kinds of responsibility reflect contrasting aspects of the human condition: on the one hand, we are vulnerable creatures whose lives may not be worth living unless others are willing to come to our aid and supply us with resources. On the other hand, human beings are choosing agents able to control their actions and to take responsibility for the results. For such agency to exist they must be willing to bear losses and enjoy gains, whether these fall immediately on themselves or on others. The idea of outcome responsibility permits that. It prevents one person, or group of persons, imposing losses on other. At the same time, where losses are self-imposed, it frees other agents from having to make good the deficit.
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