Who Is Responsible?

We are born at a certain place and time that instantly affects the type of person we will be.  The subsequent experiences and lessons learned further affect us.  As we get older and begin to make our own decisions, perhaps what we choose to do is not in our control, but rather a conglomeration of all choices and experiences before that single moment that led to that action.  If this is the case, how can we be responsible for anything we do? 

Imagine a world where people weren’t responsible for their actions.  The world would become absolute chaos if no one took responsibility or faced consequences for their actions. To be responsible for an action taking in a moment in time, I have to be responsible for every moment up until that time and that I intended to be this way that I am.  This dichotomy of intention and responsibility can go on and on tracing back to when one is born and simply not responsible for anything.  Each person has a set of circumstances and prior life experiences that creates different point of views even on the same topic.  This leads to different ideas of moral responsibility.  If everyone has different morals because of their different life experiences and intentions going into a situation, then it is hard to hold people to be morally responsible.

If the idea of ultimate responsibility does not hold because there is eventually some prior step that we are not responsible for like Strawson suggests, then the entire legal system would be different.  For example, imagine a man shoots another man and instead of dealing with the consequences in our normal legal system, the man wasn’t held responsible, but rather the video game company that made the game where he learned to shoot people was responsible.  Even then, maybe the video game company wouldn’t even be responsible and the chain of responsibility could go all the way back to the first person who invented the gun.  Since, without that person who created the gun, no one would be able to shoot one.  If this was the case for any action ever taken and no one faced direct responsibility then the world be chaotic.  It is the fear of consequences and the legal responsibility that makes people adhere to the law.  If there is no fear of repercussions, then people will do as they please with no regard for the law.

This leads to the question of who actually is responsible.  Our legal system tries to eliminate the confusion by using a strict liability approach to law or causal responsibility.  Strict liability pays no mind to the details of the crime, but imposes a strict consequence to the action. Causal responsibility takes into account the intent and mind set of the acting person.  Although causal responsibility is much more subjective than strict liability they both serve as a means of designating legal responsibility.

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