Res Publica

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 511–530 | Cite as

Co-responsibility for Individualists

  • David AtenasioEmail author


Some argue that if an agent intentionally participates in collective wrongdoing, that agent bears responsibility for contributing actions performed by other members of the agent’s collective. Some of these intention-state theorists distribute co-responsibility to group members by appeal to participatory intentions alone, while others require participants to instantiate additional beliefs or perform additional actions. I argue that prominent intention-state theories of co-responsibility fail to provide a compelling rationale for why participation in collective wrongdoing merits responsibility not only for one’s own actions but the contributing actions of others as well. I propose that authorization agreements provide us with a suitable rationale. Authorization may be expressly given, as when one person signs a document authorizing another to advance her aims. Or, authorization may be tacitly or implicitly given by participating in and sufficiently contributing to a common plan. If a person authorizes an agent to act, it is right to blame the authorizer for what the agent does on the authorizer’s behalf. An authorization theory justifies the distribution of co-responsibility by appeal to the morally transformative power of agreement, thereby providing a compelling rationale for why a person may be to blame for contributing actions performed by other agents.


Responsibility Authorization Blame Christopher Kutz Intentions Co-responsibility Shared responsibility Collective responsibility 



I would like to thank Thomas L. Carson, Joseph Vukov, Richard Kim, Joy Gordon, Heidi Malm and three anonymous referees for their comments on various iterations of this paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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