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Our obligations to act together

Devereux, Luke; (2019) Our obligations to act together. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In 1970 Virginia Held wrote a paper in which she asked the reader to imagine a fictional scenario in which some strangers become bystanders to a murder whilst riding public transport. Held was interested in questions of moral responsibility – specifically, could the group of bystanders be morally responsible for its failure to act? This thesis uses Held’s example as a lens through which to ask a series of questions about moral responsibility and blame, in the hope that the answers to these questions can provide insight into our real-world duties to act with others. Given that many problems facing society can plausibly only be overcome by groups of people acting together, it is important that we have a good understanding of how we are morally required to behave collectively. After a short introduction to Held’s example and some clarificatory remarks, the first chapter of the thesis is dedicated to an enquiry into the nature of moral responsibility and blame. The second chapter examines Held’s proposal that we should hold the group qua group morally responsible for its failure to act. I argue that, whilst in other contexts it is appropriate to hold groups qua groups morally responsible for their acts, the bystanders in Held’s example do not constitute a kind of group which is capable of being morally responsible. We can therefore only ascribe moral responsibility to individuals in Held’s example. The third chapter asks how we can hold people morally responsible for failure to act when their action couldn’t have made a difference. The final chapter focuses on how my findings might apply to our real-world obligations.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: Our obligations to act together
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10067053
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