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Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts$
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Tracy Isaacs

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199782963

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199782963.001.0001

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Collective Obligation, Individual Obligation, and Individual Moral Responsibility

Collective Obligation, Individual Obligation, and Individual Moral Responsibility

(p.130) 5 Collective Obligation, Individual Obligation, and Individual Moral Responsibility
Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts

Tracy Isaacs

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 examines the interplay between collective obligation and individual obligation, providing a framework for determining forward-looking solutions to large-scale problems such as global warming, widespread hunger and poverty, and environmental degradation, that require collective solutions because they are so vast. These are cases of cumulative harm more than collective wrongdoing, and so there is no clear organization or goal-oriented collective that is responsible for them. The challenge, therefore, is to motivate the possibility of thinking in terms of collective obligation in the absence of a collective agent. This chapter motivates this possibility borrowing from Larry May the idea of a “putative” collective agent and from Virginia Held the idea that random collectives can be responsible. The chapter argues that when clear collective solutions emerge, collective obligations can render individual obligations more determinate.

Keywords:   collective obligation, bystander cases, random collective, putative collective, global warming, global poverty

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