Tracy Isaacs

in Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782963
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897117 | DOI:

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The Introduction sketches four cases: genocide in Rwanda, the Canadian Red Cross’s mishandling of Canada’s blood supply in the 1970s and 1980s in the “tainted blood scandal,” global warming, and participation in widespread wrongful social practice. This chapter distinguishes collective wrongdoing, which requires collective agency, from collective harm, which does not. All four cases require a collective analysis, but only the first two involve collective agency. The chapter introduces the idea that there are two levels of moral responsibility, the individual and the collective, and that an adequate analysis of responsibility in collective action requires attention to both. It outlines some philosophical background about moral responsibility, and distinguishes moral responsibility from legal and causal responsibility. It calls for hope: the book will not only to help us think about deeds already done, but also to provide a forward-looking framework for thinking about solutions to collective moral problems.

Keywords: genocide; tainted blood; collective responsibility; individual responsibility; moral responsibility; collective moral problems

Chapter.  5214 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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