Can Institutions Have Responsibilities?: Collective Moral by Toni Erskine

By Toni Erskine

Can associations, within the feel of formal firms, be thought of liable to ethical burdens? The individuals to this ebook seriously learn the belief of the 'collective' or 'institutional' ethical agent in, inter alia , the guise of states, transnational enterprises, the UN and foreign society. The viability of treating those entities as bearers of ethical obligations is explored within the context of a few of the main serious and debated matters and occasions in diplomacy, together with the genocide in Rwanda, improvement reduction, the Kosovo crusade and international justice.

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Of course, any move 19 20 Toni Erskine to attribute moral agency beyond the individual to institutions such as states in a way that is not merely metaphorical must be carefully considered. Human individuals are generally thought to be paradigmatic moral agents; the potential moral agency of collectivities is an important but relatively neglected area of inquiry. )4 To say that an individual human being is a moral agent is to say that this individual has the capacity to both understand and respond to ethical reasoning.

62, 65, 66, 69. 10 See, among others, K. ) E. B. Ashton (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000). Jaspers, it should be noted, is careful to distinguish between different types of responsibility. He adamantly rejects any suggestion that all Germans took part in criminal activity and, therefore, were criminally guilty. Nevertheless, his notion of ‘political guilt’ comes close to the notion of ‘vicarious responsibility’ to which I am referring. For Jaspers, all Germans were to some extent politically guilty, or answerable for, the acts of the regime to which they belonged, even if they could be accused neither of supporting nor cooperating with this regime (pp.

In other words, even if we can consider them to be moral agents, the conditions under which they exist render them often ill equipped to exercise moral agency with either confidence or consistency. I cited the conditions necessary for an institution to exercise moral agency as being the freedom to act and some degree of independence from other actors. Quasi-states fall woefully short of enjoying either. 41 This should not be taken to mean that they simply lack the capacity to act – although this capacity might be limited – but rather that they are deprived of the conditions necessary to realize this capacity.

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