Taking Responsibility

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In this paper I discuss blameworthiness for problematic acts that an agent does inadvertently, without having any sort of problematic motivation. Blameworthiness is difficult to make sense of in this sort of case, as there is usually thought to be a tight connection between blameworthiness and something in the agent’s ‘quality of will’. Yet, some acts that have no bad will behind them are nonetheless bad, and seem blameworthy. I aim to vindicate the intuition that such acts can be genuinely blameworthy. I argue that the only possible way to make sense of blameworthiness is by extending the realm of what the agent can be blamed for so as to include these inadvertent acts. But of course we need a rationale for extending the realm in this way. Joseph Raz has recently argued that we need to take on extra responsibility to preserve our self-respect. I argue that a better account says that we take on extra responsibility voluntarily, and we do it in order to fully partake in interpersonal relationships. We voluntarily take on extended responsibility, which is more than liability, because we are properly invested in the duties we have to our partners, friends, loved ones and so on. Taking on extended responsibility when we inadvertently fail in our duties to our loved ones assures them that we respect them, take them seriously, and want to be respected and taken seriously in turn.