Brotherhood of St Laurence

Moral responsibility and the boundaries of community : power and accountability from a pragmatic point of view /

By: Smiley, Marion
Publisher: Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press 1992Description: x, 286 p. ; 24 cmISBN: 9780226763262; ; 0226763269; 0226763277(pbk.)Subject(s): Responsibility | Ethics | Philosophy | Power (social Sciences) | Political Ethics | Accountability | Politics | Social Problems | TheoryDDC classification: 170 SMI
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Includes bibliographical references (p. 273-284) and index.

The question of responsibility plays a critical role not only in our attempts to resolve social and political problems, but in our very conceptions of what those problems are. Who, for example, is to blame for apartheid in South Africa? Is the South African government responsible? What about multinational corporations that do business there? Will uncovering the "true facts of the matter" lead us to the right answer? In an argument both compelling and provocative, Marion Smiley demonstrates how attributions of blame--far from being based on an objective process of factual discovery--are instead judgments that we ourselves make on the basis of our own political and social points of view. She argues that our conception of responsibility is a singularly modern one that locates the source of blameworthiness in an individual's free will. After exploring the flaws inherent in this conception, she shows how our judgments of blame evolve out of our configuration of social roles, our conception of communal boundaries, and the distribution of power upon which both are based. The great strength of Smiley's study lies in the way in which it brings together both rigorous philosophical analysis and an appreciation of the dynamics of social and political practice. By developing a pragmatic conception of moral responsibility, this work illustrates both how moral philosophy can enhance our understanding of social and political practices and why reflection on these practices is necessary to the reconstruction of our moral concepts. ; Contents: 1. Introduction -- The Political Context of Moral Responsibility -- Beyond Free Will and Determinism -- Philosophical Pragmatism and Social Practice -- Part One -- 2. Communal Blame and the Classical Worldview -- Why We Cannot All Be Kantians -- Aristotle on the Conditions of Voluntariness -- The Responsibility of Children -- Blameworthiness, Communal Standards, and the Primacy of Moral Luck -- Volitional Excuses and the Criteria of Blameworthiness -- 3. Transcendental Authority and the Damnation of Christian Sinners -- Transcendental Authority Threatened -- From Communal Accountability to Moral Sin -- Religious Ascription vs. Scientific Discovery -- 4. Internalized Transcendence and the Modern Moral Conscience -- Moral Guilt and the Internalization of Social Blame -- The Burdens of Free Will -- Determinism, Moral Luck, and Insufficient Control -- Part Two -- 5. Moral Responsibility and the Prevention of Harm -- Shared Starting Points -- A Radical Extension of Moral Responsibility -- Traditional Constraints and the Deflation of Radical Theory -- The Subjectification of Social Blame -- 6. Social Expectations, Role Playing, and the Primacy of Moral Agency -- A Deontological View of Moral Agency -- Moral Agency and Social Norms -- Social Norms, Role Playing, and the Collapse of a Conservative Perspective -- 7. Moral Agency and the Distribution of Organizational Blame -- Moral Blame and Democratic Accountability -- Organizational Excuses -- Moral Tasks and the Distribution of Power -- Part Three -- 8. Actions, Consequences, and the Boundaries of Community -- Alternative Approaches -- The Practice of Moral Responsibility -- Casual Responsibility and Practical Control -- Interests, Expectations, and Social Roles -- Casual Responsibility and the Boundaries of Community -- Shifting Boundaries -- The Problem of Omissions -- When Do We Become Killers? -- 9. Private Blame and Public Accountability -- Moral Responsibility, Causation, and Blameworthiness -- Volitional Excuses and the Question of Fairness -- Do We Really Need to Talk about Free Will? -- Social Blame and the Regulation of Communal Standards -- Blaming, Interests, and the Maintenance of Power -- From Public Accountability to Moral Blameworthiness and Back -- 10. Conclusion: Morality and Power -- Bibliography -- Index.

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