About Collective Responsibility

Arto Mutanen


Purpose. The purpose of the paper is to consider the notion of collective responsibility.

Methodology. The paper is a philosophical analysis of the topic.

Results. In the paper the ethical problem to be studied are related to general problem of good or to general problem of good action, not to metaethical problems like how ethical language is used or ethical theories. Aristotle says in Nicomachean Ethics that “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” Aristotle emphasize that an agent, who primarily is a human being, is intending to achieve good or well being. The notions of good and of well being are primarily to be applied to single agents, especially to human beings. The ethical problems of good and of right action refer principally to single agent. In this sense the problems of ethics are of personal character, they are connected to an individual and his or her good or right action. Hence, also the ethical responsibility becomes understandable: the agent is responsible of his or her acts. The agent is intending his or her good and he or she is responsible for his or her actions. The responsibility is connected to agent’s moral duty. The ethical notions characterize agent as a member of moral society. That is, the responsibility and moral duty remains personal commitment. The discussion about collective ethics and collective responsibility are of central importance. However, it seems that the ethical notions are basically applicable to human individuals. It seems that the notions of collective ethics and responsibility becomes as secondary notions. This allows us to problematize the notions of collective ethics and of collective responsibility. So, the notions of corporation social responsibility or corporate citizenship have to be understood only as “technical” notions. The ethical agent remains to be an individual and so ethical responsibility primarily refers to individuals. The secondary notions of collective ethics and collective ethical responsibility are methodically based on these primary notions. The collective responsibility refers to the collective agents but at the same it refers indirectly to at least some individual agents.

The theoretical contribution. The theoretical contribution is conceptual clarification and theoretical clearness which offers tools to analyse the present day discussion about the corporation responsibility.

Practical implications (if applicable). The practical implications of the paper are of methodological character. Usual ethical notions are based on singular argents. The notions of collective ethics will be generated starting from usual ethical notions which make the notions of collective ethics as secondary.

Keywords: Ethics, responsibility, collective ethics.

Paper type: Theoretical paper.


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