Abstract:  In some cases where harm is brought about by the actions or omissions of a group of loosely connected people, the group seems to be to blame for the harm even if no one individual could have prevented it. Such cases pose a problem for the following standard assumptions about blameworthiness:

EXPLANATORY INVOLVEMENT: X deserves blame for Y only if Y happened because of X.

MORAL AGENCY: Only moral agents can deserve blame.

 

On the one hand, no group member seems to satisfy EXPLANATORY INVOLVEMENT. On the other, the group does not plausibly constitute a moral agent, as it lacks the sort of coordinating principles characteristic of rational agents, and it seems that the individual agents are themselves implicated in the harm. In an earlier paper, I sketched an account promising to make sense of the blameworthiness involved in the relevant problem cases in terms of ”shared" responsibility. In this paper, I refine that account, in particular by spelling out parallels between inter- and intrapersonally shared responsibility. Part of the difficulty of thinking about shared responsibility, I suspect, is that it contrasts starkly with a certain extremely simple kind of individual case, where responsibility has its source in a decision taken at a particular time. The hope is that when distributed and holistic traits of more complex individual cases become clearer, cases of shared responsibility will seem not only intuitive but also fully intelligible.