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The difference between fault and responsibility - Insight junkie [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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The difference between fault and responsibility [Jul. 21st, 2014|09:37 pm]

aka, a distinction that people don't make nearly often enough or in the right ways


A couple of relevant excerpts:

"an awful lot of people get themselves hung up on the idea that the party who is at fault Should be the party to be responsible. "I'm not the one who broke it, I shouldn't have to clean it up!"

It's a nice prescriptive principle for organizing morality, ethics, and law: where it can be implemented it makes the world more fair."

"But we don't live in a world like that. One of the fundamental facts of human existence is that you're going to take responsibility for a lot of things that aren't your fault. In fact, the vast majority of things you are responsible for in your life are not going to be your fault, but, nevertheless, you will be responsible for them."

"Taking responsibility feels good because it's empowering. Because it makes you feel less impotent against the vagaries of life. In fact, it feels so good, some people wind up taking too much responsibility, such as codependents on a loved one's addiction, taking responsibility for preserving the addict's lifestyle, or over-protective parents trying to sheild their kids from every averse experience in life, or the battery victim who takes on responsibility for molifying their abuser. It's important not to take too much -- or the wrong -- responsibility, either.

It can be hard to figure out how much responsibility to take, and which responsibility to take, especially if one grew up with people who were bad at it, or deliberately obfuscated issues of fault and responsibility to get away with things (and there is a whole post worth on the topic of what we in the pshrink biz call "parentification" of children and its relationship to assuming inappropriate responsibility.)"

Anyway, go forth and read the whole thing. It's very well-written and lays it all out in a way that an over-responsible person like me can't easily ignore.


[User Picture]From: amaebi
2014-08-13 02:18 pm (UTC)
Good points. To add a couple more:

There is a class of stuff called public goods and services: things whose existence beneficially affects people within a substantial vicinity whether we choose to participate or not, and/or from which we are not at all easily excluded. And another class of actions called externality-producing, which are similar, some producing beneficial and some harmful public effects. These pretty well confound those tidy classifications about faults and responsibilities, requiring community action. Which requires community accounting. Which is unfashionable to the point of being even more unintuitive than usual now.

The other thing I think about is the desirability, to my mind, of being able to shift from the sort of perspective, whether torts or moving-force, that's all about Who, toward a perspective that's about Function: what to do, then entailing possible actions and agents to work on them....

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[User Picture]From: erratio
2014-08-18 04:13 pm (UTC)
I like those points! They make me wonder whether people from less individualistic cultures get hung up on fault and responsibility as much as we Westerners tend to
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[User Picture]From: amaebi
2014-08-18 06:57 pm (UTC)
Well, at any rate I'd think that running a society on fault (and credit) would tend to lead to individualism! "It wasn't me-- it was that other person!"
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