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Responsibility and Distributive Justice$
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Carl Knight and Zofia Stemplowska

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199565801

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565801.001.0001

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The Public Ecology of Responsibility 1

The Public Ecology of Responsibility 1

(p.187) 9 The Public Ecology of Responsibility1
Responsibility and Distributive Justice

Susan Hurley

Oxford University Press

What is the appropriate role of government in avoiding harms by means of influencing citizens' behaviour? How does individual responsibility enter into the answer? Traditional liberalism's answer to this question assumes the priority of private responsibility. This chapter examines a naturalistic challenge to this assumption. Work in the cognitive sciences suggests that individual responsibility is not prior to the public realm, so cannot independently parameterize the limits of the public realm. Rather, individual responsibility has a public ecology. The capacity for responsible action assumed by liberalism isn't simply a given, but has social and political conditions. As a result, we need to revise our understanding of liberalism. A progressive social liberalism should serve the public good within the public ecology of responsibility in ways that counter manipulation and support the rationality and responsibility of citizens. Such an ecological conception of liberalism is not a way of abandoning liberalism, but a way of revitalizing and strengthening it for the future.

Keywords:   liberalism, responsibility, rationality, public ecology, public realm, citizens

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