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In moral philosophy, the word responsibility has at least two related meanings:

  • The recognition that in order to achieve one's purposes, one must act oneself ("take" responsibility) rather than expecting others to do something (compare initiative).

The etymology of the word ultimately relates to Latin respondere (to reply).

Generations of worry about a Christian Last Judgement have engrained a sense of "personal responsibility" into ethical decision-making. Any action seen as causing a situation can (in a hyper-critical society) become an occasion for sheeting home "responsibility" (blame).

In politics, calls for responsibility often form a pejorative means of attacking political opponent s. This habit of demanding behaviour aligned to one's own desires also occurs in other arenas: one expects "responsibility" from children, workmate s and employees, meaning they should change their attitudes to suit the speaker.

Compare accountability. See also the section on moral responsibility in the article on free will.

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Last updated: 02-05-2005 04:51:23
Last updated: 02-27-2005 05:06:20