Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 775–787 | Cite as

Responsibility and Reciprocity

  • R. A. DuffEmail author


Discussions of responsibility typically focus on the person who is held responsible: what are the conditions or criteria of responsibility; what can be done to or demanded of a person who is responsible? This paper shifts focus onto those who hold, rather than those who are held, responsible: what do we owe to those whom we hold responsible? After distinguishing responsibility as answerability from responsibility as liability, it attends mainly to the former, and points out the ways in which it is multiply relational: I am responsible for something to someone who has the standing to call me to account for it, under the norms of some particular practice. Responsibility as thus understood is also reciprocal: if you are to be answerable to me, I must treat you with a certain respect, attend seriously to your answer, and be ready to answer to you myself. The paper explores some of the implications of this point both for our moral dealings with each other, and for criminal law and the criminal trial.


Responsibility Answerability Liability Reciprocity Criminal trial 



Thanks are due to participants in a workshop ‘Responding to Wrongdoing: Resentment, Blame, Forgiveness, Punishment’ held at the University of Oslo Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, to members of the Northern Political Philosophy Group, and to two anonymous reviewers, for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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