AudiResponsible ctionnd Virtuous haracter 305(a causal attribution) or aforestfire, r that a teacher was responsibleforgradingone hundredpapers by Monday (a role attribution) nd didit.Philosophicaldiscussionsof responsibility ave focusedmainly n athird kind, illustratedby the notion of an agent's moralresponsibilityfor givingup a military ecretor-as aresultofbeingkidnapped-notmorallyresponsible for failingto keep a promise. Ourwidest term forthismightbe normativeesponsibility,hich s above all a type
of eligibilityfornormative ssessmentregarding n action.2The most
common kindofassessment ppropriateto normative esponsibilitys moral; but onecould be normatively esponsibleinanother way, sayaestheticallyrprudentially. erhaps thecentral dea is that responsiblection, that s,action forwhichoneisnormatively esponsible,s anappropriatepartialbasis for assessmentof one's character nd indeed of anagent overall,insofar s such global assessments differentrom ssessmentf character.For instance, responsibleaction that fulfills duty countspositively ntheappraisalofcharacter;esponsible ctionthatwrongs omeonecountsnegatively; nd so forth.On the other hand, normativeresponsibilityshould notbe assumedtoapply onlytoaction. One maybe responsiblefor one's students'failingo know a certain technique, and that failureis not an action. Arguably,hisresponsibility ustbe owingto, say,one's
decidingnot to teach the technique;but evenfthat s so,the responsibilityis stilltrulypredicable ofsomethingother than action.Is responsibilityfor non-actionsderivative, hen,fromresponsibilityor actions? This isamongthequestionsto beaddressedshortly.One of the most mportantistinctions e mustobservendiscussingresponsibilityof any sort)s betweendirect nd indirectinds.ConsiderJack,who isresponsiblefor a forestfire. He threwalighted cigaretteinto dry eaves and walkedon. Heisindirectly esponsiblefor thefireby virtueofdoing somethingthat causedit. Heis,on theotherhand,directly esponsibleforhe causativect-discardingtheighted igaretteindry eaves,or at leastfor some basic actbywhichhedid this,uchasthrowinghishandout andreleasinghisfingers presumablyknowingthat thecigarettewould remainlighted). Plainly,fwe areresponsiblefornything,earedirectly esponsibleoromething.t isnot reasonabletopositeither aninfiniteegressor a circle here.3Must all normativeesponsibility ltimatelyestonresponsibilityorbasic acts,understoodroughlys thosewe do notperformyperforminganyotheract(s)?Theanswersapparentlyyes, providedwearetalkingaboutresponsibilityorcts. Callthisview,hat llnormativeesponsibility
2.This isat least roughlyquivalenttowhatMichael Zimmermanallsappraisability;seeAn EssayonMoral ResponsibilityTotowa,N.J.:Rowman&Littlefield,988),esp.chap.1.3.Onsome viewsbasicactionisequivalenttovolition.leavethatpossibilitypen;thepointhereisthatthereapparentlymustbea behaviorallocusofresponsibilityoraction.The kindofbehaviorn questionis alargely ndependentmatter.