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Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts by Tracy (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario) Isaacs


Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts by Tracy (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario) Isaacs

Genocide, global warming, organizational negligence, and oppressive social practices are four examples of moral contexts in which the interplay between individuals and collectives complicate how we are to understand moral responsibility. Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts is a philosophical investigation of the complex moral landscape we find in collective situations such as these. Tracy Isaacs argues that an accurate understanding of moral responsibility in collective contexts requires attention to responsibility at the individual and collective levels. Part One establishes the normative significance of collective responsibility. Isaacs argues that collective responsibility is indispensible to providing a morally adequate account of collective actions such as genocide, and that without it even individual responsibility in genocide would not make sense. Isaacs explains the concepts of collective intention and collective intentional action, provides accounts of collective moral responsibility and collective guilt, and defends collective responsibility against objections, including the objection that collective responsibility holds some responsible for the actions of others. Part Two focuses on individual responsibility in collective contexts. Isaacs claims that individuals are not morally responsible for collective actions as such, but they can be responsible in collective actions for the parts they play. She argues that the concept of collective obligation can help to address large scale global challenges such as global warming, environmental degradation, and widespread poverty and malnutrition. Finally, Isaacs discusses cases of widespread ignorance and participation in wrongful social practice, whether it constitutes an excuse, and how to effect social change in those conditions.


The book is an excellent introduction to the issues. It is clearly written and covers many of the major arguments in contemporary debates about individual and collective moral responsibility....Since collective responsibility has often been denounced for its supposed pernicious effects, Isaacs makes an important contribution in showing how, when correctly understood, its effects might, on the contrary, be very helpful. * Virginia Held,Ethics *

About the Author

Tracy Isaacs is Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario.

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Book Info

Publication date

10th June 2011


Tracy (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario) Isaacs

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Oxford University Press Inc


216 pages


Ethics & moral philosophy
Ethical issues & debates
Social & political philosophy
Political science & theory



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