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"Determining Moral Responsibility"

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dominic vedaña

on 20 November 2013

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Transcript of "Determining Moral Responsibility"

CHAPTER 7: "Determining Moral Responsibility"
"Determining Moral Responsibility"

When we say that an act is wrong, or when we judge a person to be guilty of something, we usually base our judgments on some criteria and rules.
Without any consistent criteria, any judgment we make would arbitrary (like a teacher deciding on your grade without any clear criteria for grading.
Moral responsibility, according to Kantian Ethics, is measured according to the goodness of the agent’s motive for acting regardless of the consequences, while Utilitarian Ethics determines moral responsibility according to the consequences regardless of his motive.




Making moral decision is difficult but it is an integral part of everyday life. Sometimes we ponder on our choices and perform the act that may best carry out motives, but sometimes we also act without fully considering our alternatives. And when we choose to act, sometimes our actions fail us, leading to unintended and unfavorable consequences.

Moral responsibility concerns only the evaluation of human acts, or actions which man performs knowingly and freely. And it is essentially, thought not exclusively, concerned with wrongful or injurious acts.

Moral responsibility does not only concern itself with wrongful acts but also the praiseworthy. When a person is fully aware of the moral rightness of his action and decides freely to perform the act, he is worthy of praise because he performs an act that is fully his.

Case 1; A Cat's story
Case 2; His Best friend John
Elements of Moral Responsibility
There is a well-known maxim in philosophy of law, “a crime is not committed if the mind of the person performing the act complains of being innocent”. In other words, the person who commits a crime should know that is wrong, and he in fact feely intends to commit it.

The phrase “deliberate intent” means conscious design or premeditation and it assumes two elements knowledge and freedom. Without these two elements there can be no moral responsibility arising from any wrongful act.
Reason allows us to act with purpose. It also allows us to distinguish good from bad, right from wrong.
Case 3; His Father's Killer
CASE 4: The Electrician
Freedom means the power to act, speak or think without externally imposed constraints. Because personal freedom ties man to his acts, it is important that he act voluntarily in performing a wrongful act before he could be held morally responsible for his action.

Ability is the possession of the means required to do something or get something. It is the element of freedom that permits the accomplishment of something.

Ability also implies a condition that makes a person feel he has acted freely. It is also a condition which allows a person to do what he wishes to perform freely.

Feeling free expresses the mental or psychological aspect of freedom. Its key element is free consent.

Being free on the other hand, expresses not only the mental aspect of freedom but also its physical aspect.
Choice, the second element of freedom, implies that in a freely-performed act there are two or more mutually-exclusive possibilities. Freedom implies the existence of the self-determined alternative acts aside from the one being performed. In other words, a person is free if he acts based on the choice determined by his own free will.
Case 5: " Abu Sayad"

Man should be free to act in ways he chooses if he is to become morally responsible for his actions.

Human freedom is not only about the freedom to do right and good. It is also about the freedom to choose to do wrong or bad, it does not mean that we should sometimes do bad things.

This freedom to choose ties us to our choices in life: we are what we do. choosing between right and wrong, good and bad, describes the freedom of a man to live a life of his own.

If man has freedom, his responsibility for his actions and decisions therefore rests squarely on his shoulders.

the Greater the amount of Knowledge (Concerning the wrongness of a particular act), and the Greater the Freedom which a person has in performing a wrongful act, the greater his moral responsibility.
Classification of
Moral Responsibility
The following are classifications of moral responsibility (Culpability) of a person for his act and its consequences:

1. Perfect (or aggravated)
2. Imperfect (or mitigated)
3. Diminished (or exempted)
Moral responsibility is perfect (or Aggravated) when the person who commits thew wrongful act has complete knowledge of the moral wrongness of his action and performs the wrongful act according to hi will or choice.
2. Imperfect (or mitigated)
3. Diminished (or exempted)
Case 6; Mr. X
Moral responsibility is imperfect (or mitigated) when a person who commits the act has incomplete knowledge of the moral wrongness of his action, or when a person has been coerced to perform the wrongful act.
Case 7; Jack and Poy
1. Perfect (or aggravated)
Case 8; PO3 Gatilyo
when the wrongful consequence of an act is an expected but unintended effect of a rightful act;
When the wrongful consequence is a result of an accident;
When the wrongful act is brought about by coercion or by other factors that are sufficient to interfere with the rationality and freedom of the person who commits it;
When the person who commits the wrongful act has no ability to discern the moral wrongness of his action.
Moral responsibility is diminished (or exempted) if the wrongful act is performed under any of the following conditions:
When the person who commits a wrongful act is acting in complete ignorance of the moral wrongness of the act;
Acting in Complete Ignorance
-Ignorance means the lack or absence of necessary information, state of deficiency of knowledge concerning the moral wrongness of particular act.
Moral Qualifiers
-Certain types of human emotions like fear and anger.
Case 9; Mrs. S
The idea of Paul Glenn concerning the determination of moral responsibility of persons whose actions produce unintended results. According to him, a person is morally responsible only for the unintended result of his act when:

He is able to foresee the evil result or effect, at least, in general way;
He is free to refrain from doing that which could produce the foreseen evil;
The doer has a moral obligation not to do that which produces evil effect.
Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death,

Over his career, he assisted in 130 suicides, and was repeatedly brought to trial. He was acquitted four times, but finally charged with second degree murder, for which he served eight years in jail. He was freed in 2007 after promising to never assist in another suicide.

In the 1990s, Jack Kevorkian earned the nickname “Dr. Death” because of his involvement in assisted suicides for those with terminal illnesses. Though he was a controversial figure, his work brought attention to the issue of end of life care for terminally ill patients and changed the way we talk about disease and dying.

Kevorkian had been interested in providing alternative options for those facing death at various points throughout his career, but focused his attention on assisted suicide in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After visiting the Netherlands, where Dutch physicians are legally allowed to assist terminally ill patients end their lives, Kevorkian came back to Michigan and began his new practice of “bioethics and obiatry”, or euthanasia and death counseling. His goal was to allow individuals to choose to die with dignity.

The case of Dr. Death is considered grossly immoral because the intent is not to alleviate pain or suffering but to end pain and life altogether. This makes the act of Dr. D immoral, aggravating his moral responsibility for his act and its wrongful consequence.

It’s important to remember two general rules in determining the extent of moral responsibility for acts with double effects:

1. The moral responsibility is perfect or aggravated, if the person intends the evil
effect, and the act performed to bring the evil effect is in itself wrongful
(for instance, the case of dr. death).

2. It is exempted or diminished, if the person intends the good effect, and the act
performed to bring it about is in itself good (for instance, the case of Dr.
A person who accidentally causes harm or any wrongful consequence is usually free from blame. Accidental acts happen by chance and without intent. The consequences of the act are not only accidentally caused, but the act itself, is also entirely unintended by the person who commits it. A person who acts and causes an accident has a total lack of control over his actions: he neither intends the action nor the resulting consequences. Because a person does not completely cause his act and its consequences, he cannot reasonably be made answerable for his wrongful act and its consequences.

Accidental Acts and Consequences.
Case 12; Hot Soup
Coercion and Moral Qualifiers.
A person who is forced to commit a wrongful act is not responsible for his action and its consequences. Man ceases to be the cause of his act if he is coerced. It is important to note that before a person can be exempted from moral responsibility, it must be first be proven that the coercion is serious enough to affect man’s ability to make a free choice, otherwise, the moral responsibility of the person is imperfect or mitigated.

Case 13; Abu Sayad 2
Acts Performed by a Special Class of People.
Freedom and rationality determine the degree of a person’s moral responsible
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