Holding Group Agents Responsible

Christian List and Philip Pettit

in Group Agency

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199591565
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725494 | DOI:
Holding Group Agents Responsible

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An agent can be held responsible for its actions if the agent faces normatively significant choices, is evidentially and otherwise in a position to judge on their normative merits, and is in control of those choices. Group agents often satisfy the first two conditions. But how can a group agent satisfy the third, given that anything it does is done by its members? The answer is that it can often be said to have a higher-order form of control over what is done, arranging things so that some individuals, maybe these, maybe those, perform the action in question. Is there any point in holding a group agent responsible in its own right, since we also hold relevant individual members responsible? There is: first, because the group may satisfy the conditions of responsibility, and second, because circumstances may sometimes excuse individuals for their parts in the action so that not holding the group responsible can lead to serious deficits in responsibility. The chapter ends with an extension of the idea of corporate responsibility to groups that are not fully incorporated, thereby gesturing towards an account of the looser concept of collective responsibility.

Keywords: responsibility; control; excuse; multi-level causation; programming

Chapter.  9215 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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