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RESPONSIBILITY AND THE VALUE OF CHOICE

Abstract

Imagine that you are struggling to finish a project, with the deadline fast approaching. Nearly done, you are about to print out what you have finished when a dialog box appears on your computer screen telling you that you must download and install an update for some piece of software. Frustrated, you try to make it go away, but it keeps reappearing. So you relent and click on ‘Install’, and your screen is filled with small print listing ‘Terms and Conditions’. You do not have time to scroll through the whole thing. So you click ‘Agree’. The installation begins, and you are relieved that it takes only a few minutes. Soon you are back at work and have finished your project.

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Notes

1 I first presented an account along these lines in The Significance of Choice’, The Tanner Lectures in Human Values, Vol. 8, Mcmurrin Sterling, ed. (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 1988), 149216. A later version is given in Chapter 6 of What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).

2 This is the point Hume makes in arguing that was matters for moral responsibility is what he calls the liberty of spontaneity rather than what he calls the liberty of indifference. See A Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, Part II, Sections I and II. Hume is there discussing the kind of responsibility that is a precondition for moral blame rather than the form of responsibility we are discussing here, but the point carries over. I discuss the relation between these two forms of responsibility in the works cited in note 1.

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Think
  • ISSN: 1477-1756
  • EISSN: 1755-1196
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