Collective Guilt

Tracy Isaacs

in Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts

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

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Collective guilt is understood in this chapter as blameworthy collective moral responsibility. This chapter sets out to clear up some misconceptions about collective guilt and to consider whether the existence of collective guilt requires that there be collective guilt feelings. It distinguishes between three different conditions of guilt: being guilty, believing oneself to be guilty, and feeling guilty. It further distinguishes between personal guilt, membership guilt, and collective guilt, and, drawing on the work of Karl Jaspers, between moral and metaphysical guilt. Collective guilt, it argues, is different from personal guilt and membership guilt because it is a feature of collective agents, not individual agents. Moreover, collective guilt is not distributive, in that it does not distribute among the members of the collective. Finally, the chapter engages with Margaret Gilbert’s account of collective guilt feelings and concludes that though collectives may be guilty, they may not have guilt feelings.

Keywords: collective guilt; Karl Jaspers; collective guilt feelings; membership guilt; metaphysical guilt; moral taint; personal guilt; Margaret Gilbert

Chapter.  7330 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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