The Mark of Responsibility
This chapter offers a concise disambiguation of talk about ‘responsibility’, dividing such talk into talk of ‘basic responsibility’ and talk of ‘consequential responsibility’. Basic responsibility is often misunderstood because features of consequential responsibility are carried over to it. Basic responsibility is a capacity to justify or excuse, or, equivalently, the capacity to answer for oneself. As a capacity it cannot be owed to somebody; it is not, in that sense, a relational property. The chapter argues that the exercise of the capacity has intrinsic value, and that some of the value of consequential responsibility (which can be owed to somebody) is its value as a mark of basic responsibility. It gives some support to the old and much-maligned idea that people have an interest, qua responsible, in being punished, but also introduces some cause for concern at the widespread contemporary enthusiasm for ‘accountability’ (interpreted here as kind of punitive consequential responsibility) in public life.
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