Moral Responsibility

  • Robert Young
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series


It is evident that the concept of ‘moral responsibility’ is profoundly important in discussions of human freedom. It is also evident that there is a wide variety of senses in which one can attribute responsibility for something to someone. A short list of the senses likely to be relevant in any investigation of moral responsibility would include causing something to happen, being answerable for it, being liable to certain favourable or unfavourable responses from others for it, being blameworthy or praiseworthy for it and being guilty of, but not necessarily blameworthy for, something.


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  1. 1.
    The most perceptive recent work on responsibility has been produced by writers who have been concerned with questions both of moral responsibility and legal responsibility. It is almost superfluous to add that such writers have studiously avoided the trap I have been discussing. Cf. H. L. A. Hart, Punishment and Responsibility (Oxford, 1968);Google Scholar
  2. J. Feinberg, Doing and Deserving (Princeton, N.J., 1970);Google Scholar
  3. J. Glover, Responsibility (London, 1970).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Cf. A. Kaufman, ‘Moral Responsibility and the Use of “Could Have”’, Philosophical Quarterly, 1962, pp. 120–8Google Scholar
  5. A. Kaufman, ‘Responsibility, Moral and Legal’ in P. Edwards (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York, 1967), vol. 7;Google Scholar
  6. R. J. Richman, ‘Responsibility and the Causation of Actions’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1969, pp. 186–97;Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    David Blumenfeld and Gerald Dworkin, ‘Necessity, Contingency, and Punishment’, Philosophical Studies, 1965, pp. 91–4, try to reveal what they consider is a basic confusion in the theory which makes it possible to generate counter-examples like these.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    P. F. Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 1962, pp. 187–211, makes some interesting points of relevance here.Google Scholar
  9. Alvin Goldman, A Theory of Human Action (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1970) pp. 208ff.Google Scholar
  10. In addition William Frankena’s ‘Obligation and Ability’ in M. Black (ed.), Philosophical Analysis (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1963)Google Scholar
  11. J. Margolis, ‘One Last Time: “Ought” Implies “Can”’, The Personalist, 1967, pp. 33–41, are also worth consulting.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Young 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Young
    • 1
  1. 1.La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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