Since the Stoics, the thesis of causal determinism, if true, and itsramifications, have taken center stage in theorizing aboutmoral responsibility. During the Medieval period, especially in thework of Augustine (354–430) and Aquinas (1225–1274), reflection onfreedom and responsibility was often generated by questions concerningversions of theological determinism, including most prominently: a)Does God's sovereignty entail that God is responsible for evil?; andb) Does God's foreknowledge entail that we are not free and morallyresponsible since it would seem that we cannot do anything other thanwhat God foreknows we will do? During the Modern period, there wasrenewed interest in scientific determinism—a changeattributable to the development of increasingly sophisticatedmechanistic models of the universe culminating in the success ofNewtonian physics. The possibility of giving a comprehensiveexplanation of every aspect of the universe—including humanaction—in terms of physical causes became much moreplausible. Many thought that persons could not be free and morallyresponsible if such an explanation of human action turned out to be true. Others argued that freedom and responsibility would not be undermined by the truth of scientific determinism. In keeping with thisfocus on the ramifications of causal determinism for moralresponsibility, thinkers may be classified as being one of two types:1) an incompatibilist about causal determinism and moralresponsibility—one who maintains that if causal determinism istrue, then there is nothing for which one can be morally responsible;or 2) a compatibilist—one who holds that a person canbe morally responsible for some things, even if both who she is andwhat she does is causally determined. In Ancient Greece, these positions were exemplified in the thought ofEpicurus (341–270 BCE) and the Stoics, respectively.
But in addition to these legal duties the law places obligations on persons by virtue of their citizenship. These obligations are referred to as civic duties and responsibilities. The citizen must therefore, be as fully aware of his civic duties and responsibilities, as he is of his rights; and the public- spirited citizen will always try to strike a balance, and find a proper relationship, between his rights and his duties and responsibilities. If we attach undue weight to individual rights at the expense of our duties and responsibilities we could create an excessive individuality which could easily blind us to the needs of the Community or the State to which we belong.
For instance,Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (1997) reports that the proposed MultilateralAgreement on Investment (MAI) would "dramatically undermine the abilityof federal, state and local governments to shape economic and social policiesthat foster safe, healthy and equitable communities." Only because ordinarypeople around the world have begun to protest such global policies beingmade without their involvement has MAI been stalled at the moment.
Ledger views belong to a broader class of views which regardresponsibility to be a matter of proper attributability. As GaryWatson has highlighted, the central concern in such views is whetherthe agent's action or attitude discloses her evaluative judgments orcommitments (1996). Satisfying some baseline conditions ofresponsibility as attributability would appear to be necessary inorder to be responsible in the sense of accountable. For example, itwould seem unfair to hold someone accountable for an action viareactive attitudes such as resentment or indignation, if the actionwas not properly attributable to the agent--say, because she succumbedto a genuinely coercive psychological compulsion. Yet beingresponsible in the attributability sense is not sufficient for beingresponsible in the accountability sense. As Watson points out, it maymake no sense to hold the agent responsible for the action inquestion, since it may not be the sort of thing for which they areaccountable to us. For example, one may think that in making a careerdecision, an acquaintance failed to give due consideration to whatwould most fully develop and exercise his talents. Though this is nota moral judgment in the narrow sense favored by accountabilitytheorists (that is, it is unconnected to any interpersonal demand, ormutual expectation, of the sort presupposed by the reactive attitudes)it is a case of finding fault in the way an agent has exercised hisjudgment. If responsibility as accountability and attributability cancome apart in this way, then there appear to be at least two distinctconcepts of responsibility.
There is not one singular type of citizen that permeates the world or even the United States—an intermingled and enmeshed notion of citizenship is acted out through a combination of rights and duties as the citizen attempts to hold onto those values that are most important to them....
Wilson’s argument is quite as sound now as it was two centuries ago. The success of the American Republic as a political structure has been the consequence, in a very large part, of the voluntary participation of citizens in public affairs – enlisting in the army in time of war; serving on school boards; taking part unpaid in political campaigns; petitioning legislatures; supporting the President in an hour of crisis; and in a hundred other great ways, or small-assuming responsibility for the common good. The Constitution has functioned well, most of the time, because conscientious men and women have given it flesh.
So, in practice, Locke supposed that the will expressed by the majority must be accepted as determinative over the conduct of each individual citizen who consents to be governed at all.
In the matters which most immediately affect private life, power should remain in the hands of the citizens, or of the several states – not in the possession of federal government. So, at least, the Constitution declares. Americans have no official cards of identity, or internal passports, or system of national registration of all citizens – obligations imposed upon citizens in much of the rest of the world. This freedom results from Americans’ voluntary assumption of responsibility.
“Need I infer, that it is the duty of every citizen to use his best and most unremitting endeavours for preserving it [the Constitution] pure, healthful, and vigorous? For the accomplishment of this great purpose, the exertions of no one citizen are unimportant. Let no one, therefore harbour, for a moment, the mean idea, that he is and can be of no value to his country: let the contrary manly impression animate his soul. Every one can, at many times, perform, to the state, useful services; and he, who steadily pursues the road of patriotism, has the most inviting prospect of being able, at some times, to perform eminent ones.”
For the past five or six decades, several perceptive observers have remarked, an increasing proportion of the American population has ceased to feel responsible for the common defense, for productive work, for choosing able men and women to represent them in politics, for accepting personal responsibility for the needs of the community, or even for their own livelihood. Unless this deterioration is arrested, the responsible citizens will be too few to support and protect the irresponsible. By 1978 there were more people receiving regular government checks than there were workers in the private sector.
A comprehensive theory of moral responsibility would elucidate thefollowing: (1) the concept, or idea, of moral responsibility itself;(2) the criteria for being a moral agent, i.e., one who qualifiesgenerally as an agent open to responsibility ascriptions (e.g., onlybeings possessing the general capacity to evaluate reasons for actingcan be moral agents); (3) the conditions under which the concept ofmoral responsibility is properly applied, i.e., those conditions underwhich a moral agent is responsible for a particular something (e.g., amoral agent can be responsible for an action she has performed only ifshe performed it freely, where acting freely entails the ability tohave done otherwise at the time of action); and finally 4) possibleobjects of responsibility ascriptions (e.g., actions, omissions,consequences, character traits, etc.). Although each of these will betouched upon in the discussion below (see, e.g., the brief sketch ofAristotle's account in the next section), the primary focus of thisentry is on the first component—i.e., the concept of moralresponsibility. The section immediately following this introduction isa discussion of the origin and history of Western reflection on moralresponsibility. This is followed by an overview of recent work on theconcept of moral responsibility. For further discussion of issuesassociated with moral responsibility, see the related entriesbelow.
Citizenship has many ideals – namely bounded and cosmopolitan –and their merits and downfalls in this essay shall be measured by the extent to which they permit the best use and protection of citizen’s rights.