A responsibility is an imposed, instinctive, moral or natural obligation. When a person has a responsibility to do something they feel obliged to do it and will usually ensure they do meet this obligation to avoid letting someone down or feeling bad about not doing it. Responsibility is a "social force which binds an individual to a course of action" (Princeton University Wordnet ) and is a necessary element of any smoothly-functioning society.

However, 'Liberal Responsibility' provides an alternative interpretation that neglects to regard social forces as a factor of responsibility. Liberal thinkers, such as John Locke, see responsibility as the property of individuals, not an effect of social forces. Locke's conception of the individual is dependent upon firstly identifying persons by their continuity of consciousness (not by say, their interaction with their physical world), and secondly as having a 'contractual, propriety relationship to [ourselves], our actions, and our relations' (Lavin; 2008, 7). In other words, responsibility is something we have qua human beings who are defined as possessing our own identity regardless of our social situation. Lavin, in his book, The Politics of Responsibility, argues how Liberal Responsibility, is 'decreasingly adequate in dealing with the situations of global politics' (Lavin;18). This is because Liberal Responsibility is so heavily dependent upon the notion of the 'sovereign individual', whom in the increasingly globalised world, has less and less sovereignty over themselves. This decreased sovereignty, according to Lavin and other critics he includes in his thesis, is because of a growing 'structural determinism' where the structures of corporations and other large groups decrease individualism for collectivisation. All of which is inherent to capitalism and thus an effect of globalisation.

Lavin states that Responsibility "is something of an ideological barometer" here he highlights the shifting nature of the ideals of responsibility. That philosophers have struggled with the concepts and applications of responsibility. The moral interchange that directly effects each 'actor' actions. "Agents bear casual responsibility for that which they make happen." Although this initial viewing of responsibility appears to be linear (the individual is responsible for themselves), the reality reveals a complex network of external agencies, political and social regimes that influence the individual and thus responsibility. Can a child be responsible for their actions? Coercive nature and dominant forces pressuring individuals to align to morally questionable actions? Who is responsible for crime, obesity, economic failure? The individual or society? Lavin also argues that "liberal responsibility restricts our ability to perceive problems and then suggests ways to respond to those events that receive recognition", suggesting that we are 'pre-programmed' for responsibility, as though society sets what is responsible and irresponsible. Lavin discusses two scholarly views, that of Aristotle and Locke. Both of these views are in opposition, with Aristotle stating that "we are essentially social animals who receive responsibilities by virtue of our social relations", while Locke takes on the view of us being "essentially individuals with a contractual, propriety relationship to ourselves, our actions and responsibilities".These statements are basically saying that really it is the society in which a person exists, that determines what that persons responsibilities are. A school teacher is responsible for the children in which they teach, in both the classroom and the playground they must ensure the children are safe, they are learning effectively and that they are not disadvantaged, the teacher also has a moral responsibility to report any suspected abuse which may be occurring in any of the children's home or lives. Whereas a Doctor has the responsibility of ensuring he/she does everything possible to maintain the lives of their patients. Both teacher and doctor also have a responsibility to treat their colleagues respectfully and their employer by do things like showing up at work when they are supposed to. They will also, no doubt have responsibilities outside of their workplaces, in their community, their family and their friendship circles, but these responsibilities will vary.

In any case, responsibility encompasses and is relative to, many different things. These include but are not exclusive to: social responsibility, moral responsibility, civic responsibility and personal responsibility. Everyone has various responsibilities throughout their lives and if these responsibilities are not met, there are (more than often) negative consequences. In this light, responsibility and punishment are ultimately interconnected. An example of a moral responsibility could perhaps be to take care of an ill family member. An example of a personal responsibility could be to take care of yourself and your body by having a healthy diet and exercising, or a more formal example would be the civic responsibility to vote.

Rights Create Responsibility

One way of determining responsibility, is to see it through the lens of rights, providing that we accept that rights exist. The concept of responsibility, according to Holmes and Sunstein, is delivered only when certain rights are in place (as discussed on the Freedom and Liberty wiki page) (Holmes and Sunstein; 1999).
If we accept this thesis, then the above definition of responsibility presupposes the question of which rights pertain to which responsibilities. (Types of responsibilities are listed in the following sections.)

American jurisprudence philosopher Ronald Dworkin suggested that "rights are trumps" (Dworkin; 1977), meaning that no matter what situation one is in, the rights of a certain individual always take priority. In any situation, a person is owed the respect of their rights, and this causes another person to be responsible to ensure that right.

Brian Orend demonstrates a different approach to the nature of rights. He outlines rights clearly in order to determine their inherent responsibilities (Orend; 2002). His approach is systematic and clear.
Orend concludes that rights must be:
  • Universal - humans are all humans, thus are equal
  • Well-grounded - Orend states that a right is a reason, not a property of oneself
  • Trumps - Orend clarifies Dworkin's statement of "rights are trumps" (Dworkin; 1977), by stating that if exceptional circumstances arise in which the rights of others are larger or more significant in some way, then one's individual rights are forfeited (distinction of a right vs. what is right)
  • Must follow from a clear claim (Orend; 2002).

For Orend, responsibility can only stem from rights that are truly rights, outlined and listed here. By clearly defining these, as Dworkin does not, he easily defines legitimate claims responsibility.

Bill Maher once stated, "We [the US] have a Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities". The essence of Maher's wit is that although rights may create responsibilities, an individual's, group's or government's responsibility to both facilitate and protect that right are often shirked for their own personal goals or ambitions. This is an inherent problem both of rights versus responsibilities and the human condition; in too many instances the security or success of the individual, group or government is elevated to a higher degree of importance and their responsibility to protect the rights of another is ignored or forgotten.

NB: This leads to the question posed in this wiki page's discussion board "is there ever a time where it is appropriate to shirk one's responsibility to the facilitation or protection of another's rights?"

Cause and Response

Although responsibility is rarely reduced to causality, it serves as the backbone for more sophisticated analysis. In most theoretical discussions, contemporary discourse of responsibility highlights causality in the most obvious sense, because individuals are perceived as free actors capable of both the will and the action necessary to exert causal force on another party. In addition, responsibility tends to articulate causality in a retrospective manner since responsibility typically describes a relationship to an event that has happened.

Nonetheless it is problematic and troublesome to strictly apply retrospective causality for the purpose to allocate the responsible subject since there could be multiple actions that may lead to the harm in question. For example Arthur Ripstein (1999) has demonstrated the contradiction from a strictly casual perspective that it could be argued the victim of an assault is just as responsible as the aggressor, since one of the cause of the crime was the victim’s being where the attack happened. Therefore, in order to relieve the shortcomings of causality and identify the cause, law settles the matter from a political approach. In this example, the attacker appears responsible because of a general objection to street violence. But this ascription says more about preferences of individual safety and the prevention of crime than it does about actual causality. In other words, the decision is made on political rather than metaphysical grounds. The law endorsed precedents as such because to do so it is believed to promote individual rights, political representation, criminal punishment and justice.

In the Media...
What tends to happen with cause and response is that we typically examine an event after it has happened to find the cause and ultimately the person responsible. In the case of Jai Morcom (Sunday Telegraph 30/8, 2009) Police are now looking for the cause of the 15 year old's death when he was caught up in a lunch time brawl. As part of the investigation the inspector said: "...We need to find out exactly what happened" - to find out who is responsible for the event.'
Lavin (2008) states that many agents are involved in actions and events. As one student involved in the brawl said: "...this is not the time for rumours or accusations: no one person is to blame." This approach reflects a more liberal approach to responsibility.

Liberal Responsibility

Liberal Responsibility refers to the autonomous will of an individual and the subordination of individual action. It perceives individuals as social animals who receive responsibilities by virtue of our social relations (Aristotle). The concept of autonomous will formulates the doctrine of intent and competence in the Anglo Saxon criminal law system.

In Liberal Responsibility, responsibility is more closely tied to will than to causality. It reaches back to Aristotle’s claim that individuals shall be excused in actions that are undertaken out of ignorance or force, since individuals might be at times little more than tools for enacting will or plan of another, or might not understand what they are doing. Aristotle claims that individuals acquire responsibilities by way of social relations. As mentioned above The 'disclaimers', in his conception of responsibility may have held out historically speaking however a case in point of refusal to accept evasion of responsibility on force grounds must be mentioned. The Nuremburg Trials that attempted to bring Nazi war criminals to justice explicitly stated that the defence of 'I was just following orders' would not be accepted. In practical terms, Liberal Responsibility reinforces causal responsibility since causality is not only ontologically dubious but could be difficult to justify on political grounds as well. For example, decisions on punishment and reward are sometimes mediated by identifying causality without responsibility or identifying responsibility without the cause: Cats are generally excused for damage they cause to surroundings. On the other hand, parents could be held responsible for the actions of their children despite the absence of cause in a strict perspective. Therefore, without the admission of excuse in causality it would retain faulty concepts and missteps. Academics have also emphasised the significance between causality and responsibility, particularly in terms of Liberal Responsibility. Chad Lavin makes the point that you can not distinguish between causality and responsibility, and that they can not function without each other particularly in the political or Liberal function. He states, “Structures of punishment and reward are typically grounded in causality, but this relationship is usually mediated in one or two ways: either by identifying causality without responsibility or by ascribing responsibility without causality” (Chad Lavin, 'Responsible Subjects- The Politics of Responsibility, Illinois UP 2008, p.6)

Some problems exist in notions of Liberal Responsibility. One of these problems is that it is in essence retrospective in that it isolates events from their historical contexts before applying causal instances to explain the events and their origins. This refers to liberal tendencies to neglect events and situations that have no immediate or obvious causes/causal wills. The other problem is that it depends on a dubious theory to explain individual will. This refers to the tendency to shift blame onto one person in an attempt to determine the ultimate responsibility over a particular incident despite the fact there may be many others at fault. (Chad Lavin, 'Responsible Subjects- The Politics of Responsibility, Illinois UP 2008, p.13-14)

Chad Lavin states, "liberal responsibility is regularly defended for its political effects rather than its metaphysical presumptions, it is an acceptance of this autonomous, coherent, contracting individual subject that makes the political virtues of liberal responsibility (fair market, criminal prosecution, and political representation) attractive. "

Liberal responsibility and postliberal responsibility
1. Liberal responsibility denies the ontological claims, postliberal responsibility have both liberal foundations and ontopolitcal grounds and to refashion about what responsibility is.
2. Liberal responsibility prioritises autonomous wills, postliberal responsibility tries to consider the integrity of the individuals.

Individual Responsibility

Theorem: Human being are sovereign individuals with the freedom and power to act as we like, we should be held morally responsible for our actions (Free Will).

Individual responsibility with others are traits that grow with the opportunities to share mutual tasks in a democracy. These tasks should be accomplished in a orderly fashion for the welfare of the group. The work should encompass personal independence and individual rights while accommodating the responsibility necessary to maintain group orderliness.

Individual responsibility is highly encompassed within the theory of Libertarianism. Libertarianism is a doctrine where people actions are based on whether they oppress other people's rights or whether they are not oppressing other people's rights. By following through with these doctrines it provides criteria around which people can be individually responsible. If someone's actions are oppressing someone else's rights we know that they are responsible.

In addition to this, moral responsibility plays a large role in understanding individual responsibility. Moral responsibility can be defined as possessing a moral obligation for something and the fulfillment of the criteria for deserving blame or praise for a morally significant act or omissions (Honderich 1995). This means that someone can be individually responsible for an event if they directly started it, or they could also be responsible if they were aware that the event was going to happen, and they had the power to prevent it from happening, but they chose not to stop it. For example, someone could be aware of certain affairs that are about to happen which are going to infringe on other people's rights, but they chose not to act. This is known as failing to act. In this situation they could be held morally responsible. Moral responsibility and the law do not always overlap each other, and so someone can be legally responsible for something but not morally responsible or vice versa (Honderich 1995).

Collective Responsibility

It can be said that the definition of 'collective responsibility' is the responsibility of every member of a group without regard to an individual member's participation in the decision making and his or her position or rank. See also consensus and doctrine of individual responsibility.

Collective responsibility is one of the least accepted views or versions of responsibility. While many of the arguments surrounding the topic relate to the inability of a group to have a collective intention, or the need to address each individual person's responsibility within the group, it is still a topic that warrants discussion. One of the most relevant moments of collective or group responsibility in Australia's history could be British colonisation. An entire group of people were responsible for the colonisation of a country, and for the destruction of the Indigenous peoples' culture. While it could be considered that only a few had the intention to colonise, it was a group's intention to live in this new country with no regard for the original inhabitants. This colony is collectively responsible not just for the negative actions they undertook but also for the climate and conditions that our ancestors live in now.

What does need to be considered in relation to this description of collective responsibility is the means of intention. Marion Smiley, in her article "Collective Responsibility"discusses the issue of blameworthiness in regards to establishing responsibility. "That moral blameworthiness of all kinds is grounded in the bad intentions of moral agents who cause harm, is also very useful to critics of collective responsibility, since it enables them to stipulate that collective responsibility requires, not just group intentions, but the ability of groups to have bad intentions or at least to be morally faulty. How, critics ask, can groups, as distinct from their individual members, be understood to have bad intentions? To be morally faulty? To have a moral character, faulty or not? How, in other words, can they be understood as appropriate bearers of moral blameworthiness, guilt, or shame?" (see, Smiley, August 2005). It needs to be argued that this blameworthiness is in fact separate to the means of intention. While the colonisers did intend to colonise Australia, they were not doing it with entirely bad intentions. In fact it can be considered that most of the issues where blameworthiness is so prevalent (such as the Stolen Children Generation) arose out of good intentions. It is more important to focus on the intentions of the group as a whole, rather that the direction and effect of those intentions.

To address the topic relating to the need to address a whole group taking responsibility collectively, as opposed to every individual's personal responsibility within a group, Feinberg said that collective responsibility should only be considered in 'extreme' instances, as to do otherwise is 'unfeasible and unjustifiable' (cited in Lavin, 2008m p. 9). This can be justified by saying that participating individuals are voluntary, conscious beings when deciding to participate in a group, aware of the group's intentions, and thus they are considered responsible personally for allowing and agreeing to the outcome of the group's actions. French is also said to have written on certain collectives where individual behaviours cannot fully account for the entire group's actions. This occurs when the collective acts as an individual, "intentional, autonomous, and coherent" (cited in Lavin, 2008m p. 10), applying to groups, the same method of individualism.

However, with regards to the Stolen Generations in Australia, one must understand there are several complexities to this issue; it cannot be placed simply into one basket. Aboriginal children began to be removed from their families in 1880s through to the 1960s (Appleton, 2000) “Indeed, representative governments promises to determine public will and thereby distribute responsibility; we, as citizens, are ultimately responsible for what our state does because we consent to its rule” (Lavin , 2008: 9). This quote from Lavin highlights the collective responsibility of society, because “we” within society vote for politicians and their policies. The colonial society of the 1880s through to Australian society in the 1960s agreed that removing Indigenous children “was the right thing to do”. “The benevolent interpretation of this policy began to be challenged in the 1980s, said Read. He and other historians began to tell the stories of the stolen generation - the beatings they had suffered in state homes; the rapes, identity crises, their mothers' grief. Read says that these oral historians began to establish the 'big truth' about Australia's past: that the conquest and attempts to assimilate Aborigines were immoral, barbarous and regretful” (Appleton, 2002). Repeatedly the Howard government was asked to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations, however, he and his government refused on the basis of a non-collective responsibility. In 2007, the Rudd government made a formal apology, whilst highlighting the significant of this policy which was forced upon Indigenous Australians, by both the government and the citizens of Australia .A documentary made in 1983 called Lousy Little Sixpence: Experiencing the Protection System in the 20th Century NSW. Indigenous Australians were not able to vote until a referendum on this issue was conducted in 1967. Thereafter Indigenous Australians were granted the vote, thus considered as citizens in their own country…

Media Responsibility

Although the media has the 'responsibility' to mediate the government and act as 'watch-dog' the media today has become so broad and sensationalized, who then hold responsibility for the media's action's to ensure the watch-dog is not being corrupted by a hierarchy of controlling figures? That is when media mediators are introduced to keep an eye on the development of accurate reporting and moral responsibility is applied. These media mediators come in the form of television shows 'Media Watch ' on the ABC who turn the spotlight onto the people who make the shows that help form our own social and political views, enabling a certain amount of transparency in the media. "Media Watch is Australia's leading forum for media analysis and comment."

Despite this, some commentators argue that bad journalism quite often goes unnoticed and uncorrected. Jonathan Holmes, presenter of the ABC's Media Watch, has written an article for the Sydney Morning Herald on media ethics and responsibility and claims that, "Even if falsity's exposed, a "clarification" in small print at the bottom of Page 2 does little to correct a Page 1 story." Holmes also points out that attention of poor journalism by programs such as his own Media Watch is often forgotten in a month in the public sphere. Holmes also criticises and refers to the Australian Press Council as "a joke" and the Australian Communications and Media Authority a "lumbering tortoise of a regulator." Throughout the article, Holmes refers to the media's business as telling stories as opposed to telling "the truth". The definition between stories which are true or those lackthereof is another matter. Good stories sell papers and there are also great stories that are "true" stories, however Holmes believes that it "doesn't alter the undeniable truth of the proposition: by the very nature of the trade, the media can't be trusted to tell the truth."

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is the duty of organised managements resulting in decisions and actions that may effect and enhance the welfare and interests of society.
Social responsibility is very much related to ethical responsibility and is divided into many levels. Social responsibility is very important to society, organisations and the general public as it is mainly associated with corporate social responsibility. This is where businesses and corporations are responsible for the decisions made that will be both beneficial to both the community and the business organisation themselves.

There are many areas that are associated with social responsibility and they are:
  • The employees
  • Financial providers
  • Consumer
  • Community and the environment
  • The government
  • Other organisations, groups and companies

The media also has an obligation to be socially responsible. The notion of social responsibility in the media can be traced back to the Hutchins Commission of 1947 (cited in Middleton 2009, pp.3-4). This report found that there are 5 guidelines for a socially responsible press:
  1. A truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning;
  2. A forum for the exchange of comment and criticism;
  3. The projection of a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society;
  4. The representation and clarification of the goals and values of the society;
  5. Full access to the day's intelligence.

Siebert, Peterson and Schramm (1956, cited in Middleton 2009, p. 4) expanded on these guidelines to form a theory of social responsibility as it related to the press. Like Hutchins, they expressed the importance of providing a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism, as well as the need to provide trustworthy and relevant news and information. In addition, Siebert, et al recognised the power the media has within society, as well as the need for the monitoring and regulation of the media;

"The power and near monopoly position of the media impose on them an obligation to be socially responsible, to see that all sides are fairly presented and that the public has enough information to decide; and that if the media do not take on themselves such responsibility it may be necessary for some other agency of the public to enforce it" (Siebert, et al 1956, cited in Middleton 2009, p. 4).

Professional Responsibility

1) Privileged Evidence
Under common law in Australia solicitors must conduct their business in regards to attorney client privilege, thereby all communication between attorney and clients is held confidential. Legal professionals have a duty of care to provide an environment where clients communicate freely without prejudice and/or fear of further incrimation, thus ensuring the proper functioning of the legal system

2) Physician/patient privilege
Common law prohibits medical practitioners from disclosing personal information regarding patients. This forms the foundation for contemporary medical ethics, creating an environment in which patients feel free to seek medical attention without fear of alienating themselves from friends, family and the community, thus ensuring a high standard of medical care.

3) Child Privileges
Children under the age of 16 to benefit from this privilege, as doctors have a duty of care to inform parents of their child illnesses. Under these circumstances it can be argued that medical practitioners fail to meet their duty of care to children. For example: a child under the age of 16 is voluntarily consenting to a sexual relationship with a child of a similar age. Out of fear, the child may avoid medical advice from medical professionals, as he or she may fear their parents resolve. This is a great concern in today's society as it can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. (I believe I heard on the news last week that one state in Australia amended these laws, so that children over the age of 14 are now privileged in regards to sexual relations, if you know anything about this, help me out?)

Political Responsibility

In Lavin's work, it advocated that politics cannot function without responsibility, but there have been serious disagreements about how responsibility is to be understood and huge controversies about how it is to be distributed, rewarded, legislated, and enforced. The liberal notions of personal responsibility that have dominated political thinking in the West for more than a century are rooted in the familiar territory of individual will and causal blame, but these theories have been assailed as no longer adequate to explain or address the political demands of a global social structure. Informed by Marx, Foucault, and Butler, Chad Lavin argues for a "post liberal" theory of responsibility, formulating responsibility as a process that is anchored in a persistent ability to respond, not reproach. Lavin works this formulation through discussions of contemporary political issues such as globalization, police brutality, and abortion.

The social responsibilities of business

The view that business has no social responsibility beyond that of making profits for its stockholders has been vigorously proposed by Chicago economist Milton Friedman. For him "there is one and only one social responsibility of business- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the businesses contributing to contributing to charity or other social causes unless those actions contribute to the business and its profitability. In effect, he is also summoning a narrow role morality to buttress his position: the role of the business person is to develop a profitable business, no to be a legislator or social reformer, or even a good corporate citizen.

However, the argument against this view, business is not an activity of isolated individuals. Business owes its existence to society and the social responsibility of business is therefore a fundamental element in business ethics. Business sometimes has social responsibilities that conflict with, and override, the responsibility to maximise profits. For instance, and international satellite television service withdrew news on human rights abuses because it offended a government on which the economy depended for television rights to about a billion people. In that case it would seem that consideration of profits overrode social responsibility. In fact to focus narrowly on profits as the aim of bsuiness is misleading as business lives off, and impacts upon, the society in which it operates. Because business interacts with society, questions of job creation and fair pricing, for example, are matters of integrity for business. Environment is also a big social responsibility by business because some business activities have an enormous capacity to damage the life support systems of Earth.

Solomon invokes the term "stakeholder" to dismiss Friedman's argument that the ethical responsibilities of business stop with stockholders:
"The stakeholders in a company are all of those who are affected and have legitimate expectations and rights regarding the actions of the company, and these include the employees, the consumers and the suppliers as well as the surrounding community and the society at large. The virtue of the concept is that it greatly expands the focus of corporate concern, without losing sight of the corporation itself. Social responsibility, so considered, is not an additional burden on the corporation but part and parcel of its essential concerns . . ." (in P.Singer, A Companion to Ethics, p360-1).

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom and responsibility are inseparably related to each other. We have freedom to speak, choose or do whatever we choose to do, and responsibility automatically follows. However, it is common for many people to seek freedom while trying to avoid responsibility. We must be responsible for consequences of our choices and actions. In How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne shows why you must recognize the consequences of your actions:

— why you must take responsibility for whatever situation you're in today
— why you shouldn't blame others for what you don't like about your life
— why you must make your own decisions so you can be responsible for your own future, and
— how to do that without the bad consequences you might be afraid of.

Responsibility and Punishment

Responsibility and Punishment, presents a clear-headed defense of retributivism against several long-standing criticisms. In the end, a viable version of retributivism emerges as one which withstands more criticism than competing theories of responsibility and punishment. Extending the problem of wrong doing to collectives and compensation, Corlett explores the matter of reparations for past wrongs in the case of the crimes committed against Native Americans by the United States Government. No other philosophical work on responsibility and punishment exhibits this breadth of scope, as it delves deeply into particular concerns with retributivism, responsibility, and certain areas of compensation. Academicians and professionals in ethics, moral, social, political, and legal philosophy are likely to benefit from this analytical treatment of responsibility and punishment.

Public Responsibility encouraged by the Media

Many forms of media are accessed by millions of people and societies daily, therefore it can be said that the media has influence over what people are exposed to. Obviously this may not work in smaller, rural areas, but in city centres where there tends to be crowds of people, each one with their own point of views, the media can promote and encourage responsibility within the society and in turn strive for a more stable environment.

Alcohol is a dominant issue in Australian society, and the promotion of alcohol will come hand in hand with a 'Drink responsibly' or 'Enjoy responsibly' somewhere on the ad. Another example is encouraging a safe night out with friends. The campaign 'Don't turn a night out into a nightmare' is aimed at 18 yr olds especially, to try to teach them as early as possible the dangers and consequences of an alcohol fueled night out.

The Australian government also raises awareness about the five ways of sun protection, educating young people in a way that they would respect and respond to as the Australian conditions can be harsh particularly during summer. Tanning in today's society is already a massive trend hence there are growing concerns of rising skin cancer especially amongst the younger ages. Many advertisements shows the ugly side of the disease, with showing the procedures of removing cancerous tissue from the skin.

  • Acknowledging the Burden of Influence (Responsibility of Public Information via Media)
To further discussion in relation to the issue of the mother who allowed her young child to ride the New York subway alone (in order, possibly, to build a more mature and responsible young adult) and the criticism she received in the wake of reporting on her parental decision-making:
- Is the only allegedly irresponsible act she committed drawing attention to this vulnerable demographic? Perhaps more mothers would then send their offspring unaccompanied on the subway, making them potential targets to predators of the city. In the lecture yesterday there was an unnecessary attempt at an argument on this issue but the fact was, and still is, that this is not an argument, it is a question, and an old one at that: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR INFLUENCE? The individual? The media? The government? By channeling decisions we make via the media are we then opening ourselves up to blame for the consequences of our potential influence? We may all be responsible for ourselves, our actions and our thoughts, but how many people do you personally know who have a problem with accepting blame? How often do you attempt to justify your mistakes yourself instead of readily accepting your own blame? Is this, then, why we should welcome censorship?

Below is a case study of interest, a snippet from an article about Don Ritchie, a resident of Watsons Bay and a hero of suicide prevention, deterring distraught individuals from leaping to their deaths from the infamous Gap Bluff (Sydney Morning Herald, Kate Benson, An Angel Walking Among Us at The Gap, 01/08/09):

Despite his bravery and compassion, Mr Ritchie has steered clear of the limelight. He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to suicide prevention but is all too aware that any publicity attracts more depressed and disturbed people.
In the weeks after the Channel 10 newsreader Charmaine Dragun jumped to her death outside his house in November 2007, Mr Ritchie’s wife is adamant six more followed.
‘‘But what do you do? Not talk about it?’’ he asks. ‘‘It’s the truth. It’s what goes on here.’’
It has long been a haunting dichotomy for rescuers, families and media. To speak out in a bid to have the area made safer, risking more people becoming aware of it, or to keep quiet, letting the deaths go on.
But for an anti-suicide campaigner, Dianne Gaddin, whose daughter Tracy jumped from The Gap in 2005, the answer is easy. If the issue is not aired, the problem will never be solved.

Works cited:

Appleton, J (2002) 'Culture Wars: Australia's 'stolen generations' and the extinction of Aboriginality' in Reed, P 'At the British Library, London 6th November 2002'.
Browne, H "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty" Liamworks; Second Printing edition 1998
Lavin, C “Responsible Subjects” The Politics of Responsibility. Illinois UP 2008. pp. 3-18; 137-8.
Dworkin, R.; 1977; 'Taking Rights Seriously'; Harvard University Press.
Holmes, S & Sunstein, C (1999); 'The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes'; WW Norton & Co.; New York; pp. 35-48 (Chapter 1: All Rights Are Positive).
Orend, B (2002); 'Human Rights: Concepts and Context'; Broadview Press: Ontario; pp. 15-35; (Ch. 1 Basic Vocabulary and Core Concepts).
Rudd, K (2007) 'Apology to the Stolen Generations at Parliament House, Canberra'.
'Lousy Little Sixpence' (1983) Australian Screen,
Preston, N (2001) "The social responsibilities of business are amny and profound",
Middleton, M. (2009), Social Responsibility in the Media, Center for International Media Ethics (COME), Oxford University and London School of Economics. Available Online in PDF Format

Student notes:

  • Descartes theory on enlightenment: Humans are seen to be autonomous, rational and relatively free subjects capable of will and power to exert causal force. Enlightenment seems to be this notion that people exist and understand themselves without this guidance of others, so it becomes our duty to take responsibility of our actions. This theory would signify the essential view of the self which is based around Freud's concept that the subject is the object, that being not affected by others around. The non essential view (Foucault) would say that the subject is the construct of cultural power relations. This view point suggests that the sovereign ideal as presented by Katherine Moritz in lecture 6 would not exist, as the sovereign self shouldn't allow for any constraints such as religion, family etc.

  • Sponge Complex: A sponge acts as a metaphorical object, where the person has an ability to either absorb what is happening around them and this will form apart of their construction as a person. They also have an option to allow the water to flow straight through the sponge, thereby not allowing social or power relations to affect their essential self. Katherine Moritz mentioned that there is some truth in what we do and don't absorb. I want to pose a question: Why is it that we are always trying to define truth in a non physical sense? What is Truth? How do we Know what is true? Can we not just look at this theory from an objective point of view, 'I think, therefore I am', Descartes So if we look at this objectively then anything that we choose to do, ie thinking constitutes a form of truth, just being can be a form of truth.

  • Self hood (who am i)+ Freedom= Responsibility (Moritz,K): Do People agree with this?
  • 'Responsibility is not a possession, but something that constitutes us' (Conolly, 1993). This suggests that laws govern us in particular ways socially, so this means to say that if we were not constituted, then there would be complete chaos and we would be primitive instinctive people. So responsibility doesn't seem innate but rather a production of what we learn around us.

I agree, of course, that without order via constitutive, socially inherent responsibility that there would be chaos. I wouldn't refer to it as a 'production' per se, more like a gradually evolved sense of what is right.

In terms of 'selfhood' though, I think it is problematic coming from Australia, a nation so unassured in its own national sense of self. The constant struggle for a contemporary (and un-cringe-worthy) identity continues with our current attempt to re-brand Australia in order to attract tourist dollars. See below link:

In a world dominated by selfishness, individualism and indifference, many people feel a moral responsibility towards those who need it the most. Perhaps, we all should learn from it.

  • Power of the Corporations: Just to further discussion from the lecture yesterday about the crushing power the Trans-National Corporations can wield, I offer this quote from Roland Naul's book Olympic Education (Meyer and Meyer, page 17):
"When, following the German reunification from 1991 to 1993, the city of Berlin applied to host the 2000 Olympic Games, public opinion in the city was divided as to the purpose and object of the Games. A not inconsiderable group of the populace already saw the Olympic Games as a commercial media circus, and saw themselves confirmed in this view by the fact that the International Olympic Committee had recently awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta, home of the Coca-Cola Company, rather than, as expected, to Athens in commemoration of the idea and the foundation of the modern Olympic Games there 100 years earlier, in 1896".