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In ethics, moral responsibility is primarily the responsibility related to actions and their consequences in social relations. It generally concerns the harm caused to an individual, a group or the entire society by the actions or inactions of another individual, group or entire society. This is the mechanism by which blame can be placed, and influences many important social constructs, such as prosecution under the legal system.
Western societies in particular focus on placing moral responsibility on those who directly or indirectly have a negative effect on communities or regions. Recent examples include accounting scandals, oil spills, defective products, illegal campaign financing, and political corruption.
The term often refers to a system of principles and judgments shared by cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which humans subjectively determine whether given actions are right or wrong. These concepts and beliefs are often generalized and codified by a culture or group, and thus serve to regulate the behavior of its members. Conformity to such codification may also be called morality, and the group may depend on widespread conformity to such codes for its continued existence. A "moral" may be a particular principle (in the summarized form) as applied in a given situation.
The term also appears in the discussion of subjects such as determinism and other world views that deny free will, since without such freedom it is difficult to be blamed for one's actions, and without this moral responsibility the nature of punishment and ethics comes into question. In its simplest form, without the complications of morality or existence of free will, responsibility assumes control, for one cannot be held responsible for that which one does not control.
- Collective Moral Responsibility from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Aristotle on Moral Responsibility, Book Review, T.D.J. Chappell, Mind Journal, Oxford University Press
- Free Will, Determinism, and Moral Responsibility - The Whole Thing in Brief by Ted Honderich
- "Moral responsibility", Andrew Eshleman, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition)
- "Computing and Moral Responsibility", Kari Gwen Coleman, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
- Free Will and Moral Responsibility, John M. Frame, Third Millennium Magazine Online
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