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To Punish or to Forgive?

Responding to Dirty Hands in Politics

Cristina Roadevin

How should citizens respond to dirty-hands acts? This issue has been neglected in the theoretical literature, which has focused on the dilemma facing the politician and not on the appropriate responses of citizens. Nevertheless, dirty-hands scenarios pose a serious dilemma for the democratic citizens as well: we cannot simply condone the dirtyhanded act but should instead express our moral condemnation and disapproval. One way of doing this is through blame and punishment. However, this proposal is unsatisfactory, as dirty-hands agents commit wrongdoing through no fault of their own. I argue that we ought to make conceptual space for an idea of no-fault responsibility – and a corresponding notion of no-fault forgiveness – according to which we can hold agents to obligations without blaming them.

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Arvind K. Joshi

The aged in India have conventionally enjoyed privileges within the framework of a social economy where the needs of the old remained a moral responsibility of family, kith and kin. However the present changing times have forced a shift in the approach to old age care. The old person finds him- or herself in a sticky situation, in between an insensitive state and the demands of globalization. The present paper situates this problem within the framework of globalization and systematically measures the strategic response of the state to this daunting challenge, with respect to economic security and health care in particular. In the conclusion, the paper argues for a rejection of the conventional welfare approach and it advocates an integrated approach based on a coherent social development perspective within the valuation framework of social quality.

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Sicilian Futures in the Making

Living Species and the Latency of Biological and Environmental Threats

Mara Benadusi

Discourses and practices of anticipation occupy a hypertrophic space in contexts where uncontrolled industrial growth has inflicted grave damage on peoples and territories, even triggering environmental disasters. This article explores the use of nonhuman species as anticipatory devices in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily, focusing on public representations of three species: scavenger bacteria that play a cleansing role and underline citizens’ moral responsibility to secure their best possible futures through bioscience; migrating flamingos that breed under the petrochemical chimneys, raising the possibility of hopefulness by highlighting ecosystem resilience; and fish affected by spina bifida, which reveal human health status in advance, communicating the need to live in preparation for potential diseases. The analysis reveals the highly contentious character of these anticipatory devices and the contested ideas about possible futures they imply, thus shedding light on the ecological frictions that have repercussions locally and globally, in discourse and social practice.

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Halima Krausen

It is often thought that, with an appropriate spiritual foundation to work towards moral responsibility and social justice, it would be enough if individuals to follow, as Kant suggests, “the moral law within me“, doing away with outdated structures and with traditions that seem to have become an end in themselves. Yet social structures and philosophical concepts in today's complex world have deep roots in values that, in the past, were understood to be religious and that can be neither denied nor replaced at random. Besides, isn't that “moral law within me“ that was the driving force behind a prophet to “stand up for what is just“, even against social and religious authority. Here is the root out of which traditions grow like branches and structures are built according to necessity. The Qur'anic vision presented here is one of using the diversity of the branches for a constructive competition in producing fruits of balanced justice and peace.

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Encountering the Supernatural

A Phenomenological Account of Mind

Julia Cassaniti and Tanya Marie Luhrmann

In this article we compare the encounter with the supernatural—experiences in which a person senses the immaterial—in Thailand and in the United States. These experiences appear to be shaped by different conceptions of the mind. In the US, there is a sharp, natural division between one's mind and the world; in Thailand, individuals have the moral responsibility to control their minds. These differences appear to explain how people identify and sense the supernatural. In the US, it is an external, responsive agent; in Thailand, it is an energy that escapes from an uncontrolled mind. Here we approach phenomenology—the experience of experience—comparatively, identifying patterns in social expectations that affect the ways in which humans think, feel, and sense. We take an experiential category of life that we know to be universal and use it to analyze cultural concepts that influence the enactment and interpretation of feeling and sensing.

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This issue of Theoria marks a decade of democracy in South Africa. Invited to reflect on the process and challenge of building a modern liberal democracy and on progress towards social justice since 1994, the contributors have responded with detailed and in-depth analyses of a range of pertinent issues, from public institutions, national reform strategies, popular perceptions and moral responsibility to philosophical ideals, educational reforms, political participation and unrepudiated injustices. Beyond apartheid, beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and beyond party politics, greater and more inclusive social justice, if not immediately within reach, is certainly attainable: through the equalization and redistribution of access to resources, through reparations for injustices, through respect for rights and recognition of obligations, through compromise, sympathy, socialization and debate, and through making sense of change, both symbolically and practically. Most of all, justice will be served, and democracy advanced, by promoting, widening and multiplying spaces and opportunities for people to conceptualize and act upon social transformation in new and different ways.

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Nigel Rapport

I am grateful (once more) for the attention Don Gardner has paid to my work, in particular to arguments pertaining to individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences. Let me begin with overlaps he sees between us: (a) prevailing images of what anthropology needed to be, historically (in order to be an adequate science) have led to too great an emphasis on developing taxonomies of cultural variation, along with the generalising and essentialising descriptions this entailed; (b) some of social science’s taken-for-granted vocabulary (such as ‘role’ or ‘status’) hampers our understanding of the nature of human agents and the springs of that agency; (c) questions of will and freedom, choice and moral responsibility are subtle and important; engaging with these is a necessary step for strengthening the social sciences, which cannot escape their philosophical roots. Notwithstanding, Gardner would take me to task for my understanding of causation, for not adopting a reasonable view on the hoary issue of ‘free will’ and for not taking account of post-genecentric accounts of human-evolutionary process.

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Ted Nannicelli

starting point for constructing an analogous “structure of antipathy.” Our issue is rounded out with four reviews of important and exciting new books, but Kjeldgaard-Christiansen's discussion of the cinematic construction of moral agency and moral

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A Structure of Antipathy

Constructing the Villain in Narrative Film

Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen

leaving Carla Jean's fate up to an indifferent coin. Carla Jean, however, refuses to call it. She insists on the killer's prerogative to spare her and therefore also on his moral responsibility: “The coin don't have no say. It's just you.” From the social

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Where Character Is King

Gregory Doran’s Henriad

Alice Dailey

, revising or reorganizing the Folio source, the production lost sight of the play’s distinct strategies for constituting character, such as its dialogic structure for suggesting Henry’s smooth deflection of moral responsibility. This tactic was not something